Wednesday, 21 October 2015

PCI Sustainability: The Big Picture

Jonathan Cullen of Cambridge University said the world is not about to run out of energy or materials but something must nevertheless be done to stop and even reverse the rise in anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Since 1870, human activity has added 1500 gigatonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere and this has raised global temperatures by about 1oC.  These carbon emissions have arisen in the course of improving the thermal comfort, sustenance, illumination and hygiene for the growing population; to move them and their goods around, and to make buildings, infrastructure vehicles and “things”.  With current emissions running at 28 Gt CO2/year, 35% is arising from industry, 27% from transport and 31% from buildings. 

Using Sankey diagrams to map energy flows and CO2 emissions from source to final product or service Dr Cullen showed that compared with buildings and transport, industry uses energy more efficiently.  Within industrial products, steelmaking emitted most CO2 (25%) with cement (19%), paper (4%), plastics (4%) and aluminium (3%) being the other big consumers.  However 45% of total industrial emissions were in  the Others category.  Global demand for these materials will double by 2050 and the scope for reducing their process emissions is limited by the fact that most producers are now approaching the “best practice” limits.  To reach the desirable halving of absolute COemissions by 2050, a cut of at least 75% per tonne of product is needed and this appears impractical on current technologies.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The PCI Polyester Sustainability Conference - London - September 2015

(R to L) Philip Gibbs (PCI) opens the Conference with Jonathan Cullen (Cambridge University) and Paul Clarke (PCI) 
Over the last 4 years the PCI Consulting Group has studied the sustainability aspects of the polyester industry and this was their first conference to share the findings. The study originated when PCI decided to sponsor a PhD student at Cambridge University to obtain independent quantitative numbers on sustainability for the polyester production chain in particular. That student became a full-time consultant with PCI, but the work continues at Cambridge and was reviewed in the opening presentation.

But for this opening paper, all the presentations were from PCI work by PCI consultants and the conference was therefore unique - in my experience at least - because there were no “commercials” and every paper provided concentrated factual information. Every one of the papers presented in this single day would have been a highlight of the average 3-day technical textiles or nonwoven conference!

The conference also covered:

  • the prospects for bio-versions of PET’s monomers, ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid,
  • the issues involved in scaling up bio-versions,
  • the PET recycling industry – “the real key to sustainability”,
  • the latest on the sustainability of that key component of many polyester-blend textiles i.e. cotton,
  • the drivers for sustainability in the apparel chain.
Summaries of these will be posted soon.