There is a great deal of information out there and a lot of people with interesting views about the topics addressed in this blog. Here is an opportunity for you to write an original post in the box below. Alternatively, you can email me at and enclose your post.

19 Responses to Contribute

  1. Jeffrey Plotkin, Vice President, Nexant Inc. says:

    Peter, this blog is very timely. What an exciting time to begin a new career in the petrochemical industry! Not too long ago, many would have characterized petrochemicals as a mature industry with all of the innovation carried out in the 1940-1970s. However, I think (and others would agree I am sure) that right now we are at the beginning of new era in petrochemical technology.

    For example, shale gas is not just reinvigorating US competetiveness, but is also stimulating new approaches or the reconsideration of older approaces in light of new economics such as Sasol coming to the US bringing Gas to Liquids technology to N. America for the first time. In addition, US cracker operators switching to low cost ethane is causing shortages of propylene and butadiene prompting the first US propane dehydrogenation unit to come on stream earlier this year (Petrologistics plant in Houston), and pushing Texas Petrochemicals to revisit butene/butane oxy-dehydrogenation. Other on-purpose routes to propylene and butadiene are also being examined.

    The US is also leading the way in renewables to chemicals with new, small start-up companies out in front such as Gevo, Amyris, Genomatica, Metabolix, Elevance and others. These companies are developing green routes to not just low volume specialty chemicals but are going toe to toe with petrochemical based products such as isobutylene and 1,4-butanediol. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are engaged in a new cola war to see who can come up with the most “green” PET bottles. Coke has a 30% green bottle on the market already, produced from MEG made from ethanol derived ethylene, while Pepsi has announced that they are in the development phase for making a 100% “green” bottle causing speculation that a renewable route to PTA may be in hand.

    Health and safety concerns are also stimulating new technologies and products. For instance, owing to health concerns with bisphenol A (BPA), Eastman Chemical has recently introduced a new copolyester, trademarked Tritan, which is an ideal plastic for making baby bottles formerly made from BPA containing polycarbonate. Tritan is just about the only new plastic that the marketplace has readily accepted in the last 20 years.

    Thus, I hope I have outlined just some of the new developments occurring in the “petrochemical” industry and why it is an exciting time to begin a career in chemical engineering.

    • Dear Peter,
      I saw your blog while searching for some of your previous book publications (as well as those of Jeff and Harold). It is an exciting time to back at the forefront of things, although I know you have remained very active in the industry since leaving Chem Systems during the IBM “experience”.
      I am excited by the new developments I see globally. Renewable chemicals are driving new innovations and that is good to be a part of this emerging industry. Enough has been said about the usual suspects; Bio-BDO, PET, HDPE, succinic, lactic, isoprene, etc. However, we are seeing new products and opportunities. New molecules include the rise of Furanics from Avantium, which I have not seen since these were looked at for fuel additives in the 1980s. Furanics have widespread potential across many polymer vlaue chains from polyesters to polyamides and advanced plastics. Other examples include biomass derived isosorbide (Roquette and ADM) for green polycarbonate (Durabio from Mitsubishi) . I am also seeing lots of new innovations in advanced materials and polymers that also push the boundaries of what our industry can do.
      I hope this blog continues to grow and be successful and all the very best for your work in the future. Best regards, Mark

  2. Larry Nault says:

    Peter, congratulations in starting your blog. The world needs sage advice from an engineering point of view. And often a chemical engineering point of view. Leslie Groves, in command of the Manhattan Project, instinctively knew this and reveals it all in his 1962 book “Now it Can be Told”, in his choices of project participants. Had Colin Powell had that insight he and we would never have been conned into WMD and the Iraq fiasco.

    Today we have a physicist head of the DOE. Certainly knowledgeable, but he believes in fairy tales. The second law of thermo completely escapes his attention. Wind gets 25% of rated mill power on an annual basis. Fixed solar gets 14% in most places in the US. The variation of each is borderline unmanageable above 15% of regional power use. They propose pumped water, compressed air, battery storage etc. to make this work. No voice points out the 50% haircut in net output for all these storage and reintroductions.

    No voice relates the 91+% availability of our world performance leading 104 nuclear plants since 1999. No climate influencing gases, 91% of 8700 hours per year of base load generation and DOE is holding up every step of doing more of this bigger and better.

    Larry Nault

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  4. Ben Davis says:

    Peter: I really enjoyed the blog.

    I teach a class at Cooper Union on Sustainability and Pollution Prevention and I think this post in particular is a good overview/motivation for what I have students do for their first project in that class:

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Tom Blum says:

    Excellent, balance, well-grounded discussion of these issues. Bravo.

    • Peter Spitz says:

      Thanks, Tom. I got your call on voice mail and may be interested in presenting some of my posts at the conference

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