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Green chemistry is a broad concept. It does not offer a ‘silver bullet’ type solution because it is essentially a reaction to a variety of issues.
Ranging from dangerous and wasteful production processes and a heavy reliance on increasingly expensive petroleum to the persistence in the environment of toxic substances with far-reaching (and increasingly well-understood) effects on human and animal growth, these problems call for equally diverse solutions. Green chemistry is the expansive discipline that is evolving in response to this wide array of challenges and, according to a new report from Pike Research, represents a market opportunity that will grow from US$2.8bn in 2011 to US$98.5bn by 2020.
"Green chemistry markets are currently nascent, with many technologies still at laboratory or pilot scale,” says Pike Research president Clint Wheelock, "and many production-scale green chemical plants are not expected to be running at capacity for several more years. However, most green chemical companies are targeting large, existing chemical markets, so adoption of these products is limited less by market development issues than by the ability to feed extant markets at required levels of cost and performance.”
Wheelock adds that, while Pike Research anticipates dramatic growth rates for green chemicals during the coming decade, these emerging markets represent a drop in the bucket compared to the US$4tn global chemical industry. By 2020, the firm expects that the total chemical industry will expand to US$5.3tn in annual revenues.
Pike Research forecasts that green alternatives in the polymer sector will represent the highest penetration level (5.7%) within the total chemical market, as it is more developed than the other key sectors. The special, fine, and commodity chemical sectors are more nascent and will enjoy lower penetration rates during the forecast period. The three major themes driving the green chemistry movement forward are:
- Waste minimisation in the chemical production process
- Replacement of existing products with less toxic alternatives
- A shift to renewable (non-petroleum) feedstocks
Pike Research’s report, ‘Green Chemistry’, examines the three major segments above to produce chemicals and materials with smaller environmental footprints than those produced by current processes. Representative companies from each segment are profiled and global forecasts, segmented by world region, extend through 2020.