GPCA sustainability conference opens with key focus on people

Abduldwahab Al-Sadoun
Abduldwahab Al-Sadoun

Abduldwahab Al-Sadoun

Under the theme “People, planet, profit,” the GPCA is opening its 2nd conference on sustainability in Dubai from Oct. 21-23.

Wikipedia states that sustainability in general terms is the endurance of systems and processes. And that organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable developments, which includes four interconnected domains — ecology, economics, politics and culture.

Relating this to the situation in the GCC it becomes obvious that creating sustainability is a promising and challenging task.

In Saudi Arabia, the government has been following an ambitious plan diversifying its economy in which the petrochemical sector has grown into a major source of income.

A report released in 2013 by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) stated that the Saudi petrochemical industry employed 83,700 people in 2013, accounting for 56 percent of the GCC’s petrochemical work force. This led to direct employment, along with services that support the petrochemicals industry, and created an estimated 335,000 of direct and indirect jobs in the Kingdom.

While in the UAE, work force in the petrochemical sector — 38,100 — accounts for 26 percent of the Gulf’s total chemical work force, it is the second largest hub for work force in the petrochemical sector after Saudi Arabia.

“Petrochemicals are evolving into an industry that touches nearly every sector of the GCC economy, from technology, equipment manufacturing, construction and agriculture to retail and trade. On a global level, the GCC can help meet rising chemical demand, and, in the process, create new, medium- and high-skilled employment for talented GCC nationals,” said Abduldwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of GPCA.

The GCC chemical industry is a major supplier in various industries, among them electronics, food and transports. Therefore, equally big should be its footprint on environmental issues and leaving positive social impact, analysts believe.

In a bigger picture, with the increase in the world’s population, the need for individuals and companies to be more sustainable is also rising.

“The GPCA Sustainability Conference is a platform on which industry stakeholders can discuss ways to efficiently incorporate sustainability best practices into each and every element of their business,” said Al-Sadoun.

Sustainability is a key area of focus for the GPCA itself, which estimates that less than 10 percent of plastic is recycled in the Gulf region. Out of the 80 million tons of waste generated in the GCC each year, 26 million tons is plastic waste due to the high consumption of consumer products.

The sustainability conference is the first of its kind in the region.

“Between 2011 and 2012, the GCC petrochemicals industry not only added capacity to their facilities, but also reduced the emissions per ton of capacity in their manufacturing units,” said Al-Sadoun. “This is a positive development as it shows that the sector is growing in a way that is environmentally sustainable.”

According to the World Resources Institute, China and the United States were the top emitters in 2010, producing 10,385 and 6,866 million tons of greenhouse gases respectively.

The Saudi government is planning to invest nearly $26 billion green building projects in the country.

These projects include the King Abdullah Financial District, the world’s largest green building development, covering more than 1.6 million m2 of gross site area. In addition, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs is planning to make at least 90,000 mosques across the country eco-friendly, using renewable energy sources.

In the UAE, Ruwais Fertilizer Industries (Fertil) — the joint venture project between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Total — is operating a carbon recovery plant since 2009, in which 400 tons per day of carbon dioxide emissions are re-injected into the manufacturing process of ammonia fertilizers.

While the region’s petrochemical companies now track data on some greenhouse gas emissions, the GPCA believes that there is a lot of room for improvement.


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