These varied end products help us to live, work and care. They can also help society respond to climate change. This is because they often have a lower carbon footprint over their lifecycle alternative materials like wood, paper or metal. Or they help us to conserve energy or transition to a lower-carbon energy system. Insulation and low-temperature detergents save energy in our homes, for example. Light-weight components in cars and planes, modern tyres and additives all improve fuel efficiency. Components help build wind turbines and solar panels.

EXPLORE HOW FINISHED PRODUCTS MADE FROM CHEMICALS SUPPORT MODERN LIFE

Shell’s chemicals business

Moving to net-zero emissions

Reducing co2 from our operations

Many end products made from chemicals can help tackle climate change. But the industrial process used to make the chemicals creates a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Our ambition at Shell is to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner, and chemicals has a part to play. We are looking at four main areas in our production: Firstly, each of our chemical plants is improving energy efficiency, through investing in things like heat and gas recovery systems, hybrid boilers and new catalysts. Secondly, our production sites are increasingly using lower-carbon energy sources, which Shell’s New Energies business is playing a leading role in developing. Thirdly, we are exploring carbon capture and storage (CCS) options, to capture the CO2 emissions our facilities produce. And lastly, we are developing alternative feedstocks for making our chemicals, such as biomass and plastic waste

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Tackling plastic waste

Plastic end products bring important benefits to society - helping to improve living standards, hygiene and nutrition. But we also need to tackle the issue of plastic waste in the oceans and environment. Dealing with unmanaged plastic waste requires action and innovation and we are responding in two main ways. Firstly, we are developing new technology to use plastic waste as an alternative feedstock to make our chemicals. We are making good progress towards our ambition to use 1 million tonnes of plastic waste every year in our facilities by 2025. Secondly, we are a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. This is a non-profit organisation that seed-funds and incubates projects so that they can scale up for bigger investment and impact.

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Supporting our neighbours

Making chemicals is an industrial process, but it is also a people business. The people who work at our chemical plants also belong to local communities. We talk with and listen to our neighbours through community panels, open days, newsletters and social media. We employ local businesses in our supply chains. We inspire local school children to be the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, and we work with local students to boost their skills and confidence for employment. And we are proud to support emergency services and first responders, to partner on local environmental projects and to volunteer to raise money or awareness for local causes.

Growing our chemicals business

Woman scientist studying conical flask

In many parts of the world, as living standards improve, consumers are buying their first refrigerator, car or smart phone. Businesses, schools and hospitals are investing in modern equipment. And many more in society are making choices based on sustainability. Shell plans to grow its chemicals business, to meet this increasing customer demand. And, as our customers’ needs are changing, so are we. We are expanding our product portfolio to include performance chemicals, as well as base and intermediate chemicals. And we are placing sustainability at the heart of our business growth. Our advantage in the market is based not just on our global presence and asset scale. We are unique because we can integrate across Shell businesses, because we are developing novel technologies and digital innovations, and because we are truly focused on our customers.

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Technology

Male researcher studying a microscope

Innovation and technology have long been strengths of ours. We have an enviable track record in developing and licensing technologies that produce chemicals with less energy, less waste and better yields. This deep expertise, along with our truly collaborative approach, gives us confidence that we can unlock the challenges facing the chemicals industry, particularly when it comes to sustainability. Right now, Shell scientists, researchers and engineers are working to bring our more sustainable process for making polycarbonate to commercial scale. They are developing plastic waste and biomass as alternative feedstocks for making our chemicals. And working on using renewable electricity to heat steam cracker furnaces that are central to chemicals production.

Click to see some recent announcements

A digital business

Small robot with camera and wheels

Digitalisation offers our chemicals business exciting opportunities – from new ways to understand and engage with our customers and suppliers, to new business models and ways of working. In our production plants, data platforms and digital technologies are already boosting safety, productivity, optimisation of units and availability of our chemicals. We are using mobile tools to manage information in the field, models to mimic real plant dynamics and predictive analytics to detect the early signs of problems. Data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, drones, sensors and 3D-printing are transforming our operations.