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Sustainable Chemical Manufacturing: A Matter of Resources, Wastes, Hazards, and Costs.

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Abstract

Chemical processes can be made more sustainable by minimizing their consumption of natural resources, the impact of wastes, their hazards, and their costs. These four basic dimensions are discussed and applied to three chemical processes that Shell applies commercially and has improved over several decades.

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Sustainable development is gaining importance in the chemical industry. It encompasses social, environmental, and economical aspects. Herein, sustainable development is translated into four basic dimensions, called “sustainability stresses”: resources, wastes, hazards, and costs. These sustainability stresses are discussed in some detail and their usefulness is illustrated by applying them to three manufacturing processes applied commercially by Shell, namely Shell’s OMEGA, SMPO, and “low monol” technologies for producing ethene diol, styrene/propene oxide, and polyether polyols, respectively. These examples show that large reductions in sustainable stresses have been achieved in a few decades. They also show that the economical, environmental, and social issues are not in conflict when tackled at their roots: they can be all addressed simultaneously.

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