Green Chemistry is Burgeoning New Industry

Green chemistry is a wide-ranging market opportunity that will grow from $2.8 billion in 2011 to $98.5 billion by 2020, according to a new market report.

Green chemistry encompasses many issues, finding solutions for some of society’s most vexing problems. It includes creating alternatives to toxic substances, petroleum as the source ingredient for most products, and dangerous, wasteful production processes.

"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 $4 trillion global chemical industry. By 2020, the firm expects the total chemical industry will expand to $5.3 trillion in annual revenues.

Green alternatives for polymers will have the highest penetration levels, hitting 5.7% of the total chemical market, according to Pike Research. Green polymers are further along than other green materials.

3 major themes are driving green chemistry forward:

  • Waste minimization in the chemical production process
  • Replacement of existing products with less toxic alternatives
  • A shift to renewable (non-petroleum) feedstocks

Presidential Green Chemistry Awards

On Monday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards, which  recognize green technologies that have broad application.

Sherwin-Williams (NYSE: SHW) received the "Designing Greener Chemicals" award for an innovative new paint formulation that uses soybean oil and recycled plastic bottles (PET).

The "Small Business Award" went to BioAmber, Inc for creating a sustainable, low-cost Succinic acid – a starting material for many other important chemicals.

The "Greener Synthetic Pathways" Award went to Genomatica for its development of a sustainable production process for 1,4-Butanediol – a high-volume chemical building block used to make many common polymers, such as spandex.

The "Greener Reaction Conditions" award went to Kraton Performance Polymers for production of a new membrane that can desalinate hundreds of times more water than traditional membranes at 70% of the cost and 50% of the energy.

And the "Academic" award went to Professor Bruce H. Lipshutz of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for designing a surfactant that allows water to replace toxic organic solvents in many chemical manufacturing processes.

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