(752f) Looking into the Future of the Ethylene Industry: A Generic Assessment Model for Emerging Technologies

Yao, Y., Northwestern University
Graziano, D. J., Argonne National Laboratory
Riddle, M., Argonne National Laboratory
Masanet, E., Northwestern University

Ethylene is the largest volume chemical derived from natural gas liquids (NGL)[1]. Recent shale gas boom leads to decreasing price of NGL and natural gas, and as a result boosts its production and exports[2]. At the same time, ethylene is one of the largest energy consumer and GHG emissions resources in the chemical industry. Based on IEA’s analysis, ethylene production accounts for 13% of energy use and 15% of GHG emissions for global chemical industry[3, 4]. Thus the rapid growth of ethylene production adds considerable amount of energy use and GHG emissions to the chemical industry. A lot of efforts have been taken to develop energy efficient technologies for the ethylene production, and it is critical to assess the potential life cycle impacts of them on energy saving and GHG emissions mitigation over temporal and geographic scale. However, due to lack of inventory data, it is difficult to conduct such an assessment for new technologies at a economy-wide scale, especially for those in their early stages.

In this work, the impacts of several emerging technologies that aim to improve energy efficiency of ethylene production are evaluated by a generic modeling framework. This model integrates chemical process design and modeling, life cycle assessment, techno-economic analysis and scenario analysis. A brief introduction of this model will be given in the beginning of the presentation. Then a case study of ethylene industry will be presented in the details. First, the conventional technology module in the modeling framework is used to model all direct and indirect unit processes involved in current ethylene production life cycle. Second, new technology module is activated to assess the net impacts of emerging technologies on energy use and GHG emissions. These impacts are compared with the convention technologies to shed light on improving opportunities in a product level. Last, the results of both conventional and emerging technologies are integrated with scenario analysis module to reflect the energy, emissions and economic implications of technology changes for the national-level ethylene production system in future decades.

This model provides a reliable methodology to overcome knowledge barriers and deliver robust insights of potential influences that emerging technologies can have at a macro-level from life cycle perspective. The results can provide policy makers with good references on decision making for technology investment and promotion, offer manufactures with good understanding of key drivers of energy, emissions and resources use for a certain production system, provide researchers with insightful information on the possible bottleneck and future direction of R&D.


[1]          B. Fallas and P. Pavlov, "Platts special report: petrochemicals, time to get cracking " McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. , New York, NY, USA2013.

[2]          ACC, "Year-end 2013 chemical industry situation and outlook," American Chemistry Council Washington, DC, USA2013.

[3]          Y. Yao, D. Graziano, M. Riddle, J. Cresko, and E. Masanet, "Greener pathways for energy-intensive commodity chemicals: opportunities and challenges," Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering, vol. 6, pp. 90-98, 11// 2014.

[4]          IEA, ICCA, and DECHEMA, "Technology Roadmap, Energy and GHG Reductions in the Chemical Industry via Catalytic Process," IEA, ICCA, DECHEMA, France2013.