Innovation Day 2010: CEOs Address Sustainability
A well attended feature of this year’s Innovation Day at CHF was its closing event: a panel of chemical industry CEOs discussing “Meeting the Sustainability Challenge.” Fred Festa of W.R. Grace, Steve Pryor of ExxonMobil Chemical, and Jim Rodgers of Eastman Chemical shared how sustainability is defined in their companies and how it shapes their research and technology programs.
The emphasis on reducing the energy intensity of chemical operations to both conserve fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions proved a common sustainability theme. All three of their companies have established quantitative goals for energy use and decreased CO2 emissions. For instance, Grace has targeted a 2% reduction in energy intensity per year for the next 10 years and plans to limit CO2 emitted to 2008 levels while achieving increased production volumes.
Another shared philosophy is approaching sustainability as a business opportunity. These companies work with their customers to develop new sustainable products that respond to regulations and are increasingly demanded by the public. A pertinent and current example is Eastman’s Tritan, a new copolymer useful in containers and packaging goods that contains no BPA. Also, ExxonMobil is making a significant commitment to develop a biofuel that is based on saltwater algae. Such a system wouldn’t compete with human food sources, and the algae consume CO2.
The panel concluded by discussing the new technology platforms that were a focus for their R&D organizations. These included catalysis, process modeling, biological and enzymatic processes, and polymer chemistry. Meeting the sustainability challenge for these three companies, and indeed the whole chemical industry, translates to technical innovation.