Chemistry, essential in a pandemic and to achieve the SDGs



The recreation at scale of a plastic recycling plant, biorefineries, compostable packaging that become fertilizers and solutions to carry out decontamination are some of the innovations that will be presented by the September 14 to 17 in Barcelona the leading companies in three sectors that have proven essential during the pandemic. Within the framework of first face-to-face fair of the Spanish industry, that every three years groups the international salons Expoquimia (basic chemistry and pharma), Equiplast (plastic and rubber) and Eurosurfas (surface treatment), The Welcome 2030 document will be presented in which the sector will highlight its innovations to face the challenges of the planet (climate change) and humanity (health and food).

New energy storage systems, more efficient renewables, industrial bioproductions, frontier materials, critical raw materials, biotechnology and green chemistry, such as artificial photosynthesis, are other examples of technologies in the process of development to guarantee a sustainable future and that will be known at the appointment organized by Fira de Barcelona with the presence of more than 500 brands. In the Smart Chemistry Smart Future space, companies and entities such as the Tarragona Chemical Business Association (AEQT), the largest industrial concentration in the sector in Spain, Air Liquide, BASF, Bondalti, Metallic Carbides, Cepsa, ChemMed Tarragona, Covestro, Ercros, will participate. Grupo IQE, Inovyn, Panreac AppliChem, Quimacova, Quimidroga and Solutex.

Carles Navarro, president of Feique and Expoquimia
Carles Navarro, president of Feique and Expoquimia

For the president of the Business Federation of the Spanish Chemical Industry (Feique) and Expoquimia, Carles Navarro, “chemistry is essential to be able to respond to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and their fulfillment in 2030”. In Equiplast, for example, a recycling plant at scale will be recreated for the first time to show how there are already reliable systems for the recovery of plastics, as well as a unique exhibition of products made with recycled plastic from renewable and biodegradable sources. So much Bernd Roegele, President of Equiplast, as Giampiero Cortinovis, of the Eurosurfas show, agree that their sectors “They are committed to innovation to be less polluting and, at the same time, more competitive and efficient”. Along with the exhibition offer, the three events will facilitate the development of business opportunities for exhibitors in cooperation with the Association of Internationalized Industrial Companies (AMEC), through, for example, a VIP Buyers program that will encourage face-to-face and online participation potential buyers from countries in Europe, Latin America and North Africa. The three rooms will have their congress aspect, which will lead to the largest fair meeting of applied chemistry in the Mediterranean.


The Spanish chemical industry accumulates a productive growth of 18% since 2007. In the same period, the industry as a whole has fallen by 28.8%. Beyond the annual turnover of 64,500 million, another fact that underlines the solidity of the sector and its more than 3,000 companies is that a third of the firms in Spain are older than 20 years, which doubles the durability of the set of companies. The sector generates more than 711,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs with an average salary above 38,000 euros and 94% permanent contracts. It is the second largest export sector in the Spanish economy and the first investor in R & D & i, since it invests 11.3% of its added value in innovation, 7 times more than the average. Likewise, it generates almost 27% of all industrial investment in the field of innovation and environmental protection and leads the recruitment of research personnel, with 18.6% of the total industry. According to the employers’ association, European funds will be key “so that investments in the chemical industry rise 50% annually in the period 2021-2026” from the current 2,200 million. The sector has presented multiple sectoral, territorial and individual projects, mainly concentrated in circular economy, decarbonisation, hydrogen and digitization.

According to Feique, the sector expects its turnover to grow by 7.1% in 2021, reaching a record result of 69.1 billion, and an increase of 10.2% for exports, up to 40,300 million. The biggest increases are occurring in basic chemistry. The sector closed 2020 with the best performance of the entire Spanish productive economy, as it barely registered a drop in production of -0.4%, which contrasts with the manufacturing industry as a whole, which decreased by -10.1%. Much of the industry’s resilience is due to the fact that chemistry has been essential in fighting the pandemic: from pharmaceuticals and medicinal gases, to disinfectants and gels, raw materials for masks and protective equipment. In fact, chemistry is declared an essential sector in the Critical Infrastructure Law.

The electrical “ballast”

Juan Antonio Labat, CEO of Feique, denounces that the price of electricity and gas is “a competitive drag that is difficult to bear for the basic and strategic Spanish industry.” An electrointensive pays for its Kw “twice as much as a French one and 58% more than a German one,” he points out. In the last year, the demand for gas has multiplied by five and the cost of CO2 has doubled because “it is purely speculative, as we denounced in 2005 when it was implemented.” According to Labat, if the demand for products is high, the rise in energy can be transferred to products, but it will not be the case if it falls or in sectors such as inorganics.

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