However, it will need to overcome short-term economic difficulties and the longer term energy challenge of securing more energy while reducing carbon dioxide emissions to protect the environment.

India's petrochemical sector has been growing fast, the Shell India chairman noted. "For the past ten years, domestic demand growth has been strong, driven mainly by consumption of polymers and synthetic fibres, which has prompted a wave of planned investment in new capacity.

"A major driver for future growth is India's economic development program, which includes over $500-billion for infrastructure investment. India's consumers have apparently also been buying 2,500 cars, 5,200 washing machines and almost 20 million bottles of water every day," he said.

Government petrochemical policies in India are certainly focused on supporting demand and production growth. Good examples are the Petroleum, Chemicals & Petrochemical Investment Regions (PCPIRs), which are to be set up to promote investment and make India a petrochemical hub. But while clustered, integrated investments make both economic and environmental sense, the timing of new projects will be important to their profitability, the Shell executive suggested.

To meet its development goals, India will need a greatly expanded energy infrastructure, Mr Mehta noted. At the same time, the world faces a challenge of securing more energy while reducing carbon dioxide emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.

India's petrochemicals sector - as part of a global sector - can play a key role in meeting that challenge, he suggested: Greater energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, new feedstock sources - including clean coal and bio feeds - and a new generation of products and production technologies could hold the key. Certainly, India has the intellectual and creative capacity, and petrochemicals will need to compete effectively for that talent, he concluded.

Read Vikram Mehta's full speech

For further information, please contact:

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