A young woman in lab clothes stands in front of the setup for a chemistry experiment. © Panthermedia / EvgLv

Chemical and Process Engineering

The production of chemicals and other products is very material- and energy-intensive and offers a high potential for increasing resource efficiency in the chemical industry. Throughout history, the chemical industry's material-converting processes have been optimised with the aim of reducing material and energy costs. It is also possible to further reduce the use of natural resources such as energy, materials and water - particularly in regard to the goal of climate neutrality by the mid of this century.

Initial Situation and Challenge

Small and medium-sized companies in the chemical industry in particular are faced with high costs for natural resources: Nearly 51.3 percent of total costs were attributable to material and energy costs in 2017. In comparison, personnel costs amounted to only 15 percent.* Destatis (2019): Produzierendes Gewerbe – Kostenstruktur der Unternehmen des Verarbeitenden Gewerbes sowie des Bergbaus und der Gewinnung von Steinen und Erden, subject-matter series 4 vol. 4.3 (online). Statistisches Bundesamt (accessed on: 03/01/2022), (p. 287).

In chemical production, there are numerous starting points for reducing the amount of material and energy used. The photo shows metallic pipes and lines, over which various icons symbolizing the areas of sustainability, digitization and networking are laid.© PantherMedia / PeterHofstetter (YAYMicro)In chemical production, there are numerous starting points for reducing the amount of material and energy used. Costs can be saved by reducing the quantities of materials and energy used in the production process. In addition to the resulting ecological benefits for the environment and climate, such as the conservation of natural resources and the reduction of environmental pollution, there are also economic benefits, such as the preservation and increase of a company's competitiveness or lower dependencies on fluctuating raw material prices.* VDI 4800 sheet 1:2016-02: Verein Deutscher Ingenieure e.V., Ressourceneffizienz – Methodische Grundlagen, Prinzipien und Strategien. Beuth Verlag GmbH, Berlin, (p. 11).

Resource Efficiency Potential in the Chemical Industry

In the past, various strategies and measures have already been implemented to increase resource efficiency in the chemical industry. The focus here was on the goal of reducing material and energy volumes. In a survey commissioned by the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency in 2015, 79.4 percent of the 120 companies surveyed from the chemical industry stated that the resource potential in their industry had not yet been exhausted. In addition, 50.3 percent said they knew of companies in their industry that had achieved competitive advantages through measures to increase resource efficiency.* Wecus, A. und Willeke, K. (2015): Status quo der Ressourceneffizienz im Mittelstand. prolytics market research & VDI Zentrum Ressourceneffizienz, Berlin, (p. 22f).

Many companies in the chemical industry Material use of CO2 is an important step towards climate neutrality. The picture visualizes the cycle from emissions, via CO2 sequestration, to the feed-in of basic chemicals. © VDI ZREUsing CO2 as a material is an important step towards climate neutralityhave recognised that increasing resource efficiency can also positively change the public's perception of the company: Another reason to identify efficiency potential and develop measures to reduce resource consumption.

Large companies in the chemical industry often have special departments and a fixed budget for this important task. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), on the other hand, often lack such resources.

Publications on the topic "Chemical and Process Engineering"


Resource Efficiency through Industry 4.0 – Potential for SMEs in the Manufacturing Sector

The digital transformation in industrial production offers considerable potential for increasing material and energy efficiency in companies. At the same time, the digitisation technologies used also require resources themselves: materials, including critical raw material, are used in the production of ICT components. Furthermore, the digital transformation can lead to higher energy consumption. The study "Resource efficiency through industry 4.0 - Potentials for SMEs in the manufacturing sector" focuses on this conflict between opportunities and challenges.

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Das Bild zeigt eine Mindmap, in deren Mitte 4.0 zu lesen ist. An den Enden der Arme sind verschiedene Icons zu sehen, die für industrielle Produktion stehen.© VDI ZRE


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