The world is witnessing a global restructuring of the structure of the chemical industry, affecting the issues of legal regulation, raw materials, environmental aspects, reorientation of the main production regions and sales channels. The article presents an overview of the European chemical market, challenges and prospects for the development of the chemical industry in the EU countries.
Chemical industry in European countries
Today Europe is the second largest producer of chemicals in the world. The volume of their production in the European Union for 2018 amounted to 542 billion EUR in monetary terms, with global sales of chemicals equal to 3,475 billion EUR.
The European chemical industry is a rich economic sector that is a valuable part of Europe's economic infrastructure. The development of the European chemical industry aims at achieving the parameters of a competitive, low-emission and sustainable economy in Europe and beyond. The contribution of the chemical industry to the EU economy is summarised below.
Raw material base for the chemical industry in Europe
According to 2017 data, the Northern part of Europe produces around 5-6 % of the world's oil and gas reserves. They are extracted by the UK, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. There are also several major coal basins in Europe. In Germany - Aachen, Ruhr, Krefeld and Saarland. In the UK, coal is mined in the Wales and Newcastle basins. A lot of hard coal is mined in the Upper Silesian Basin in Poland. There are lignite deposits in Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Currently, the coal industry in Europe is going through difficult times due to increased environmental requirements and the phasing out of coal-fired power. Consumers are favouring cleaner gas and alternative sources. For example, Germany is already discussing the complete cancellation of imports of steam coal into the country. Climate mitigation is also making a difference
The competitive potential of European chemistry
The main advantages of the chemical sector in Europe are its favourable business environment and political stability, which are significantly higher compared to production centres such as China and India.
The main European chemical producing countries have a better chemical infrastructure than Asia and Latin America, including transport, supply chain, logistics, and energy supply
Europe's largest chemical companies
BASF is the leading chemical company in Europe by revenue, according to 2022 statistics. Last year, the revenue of the German concern was about 68 billion USD. Below is the ranking of the leading chemical companies in Europe by revenue
BASF operates in six segments, including chemicals, plastics, high-performance products, functional solutions, agricultural solutions, and oil and gas.
In second place is LyondellBasell, a Netherlands-based company with revenues of USD 38bn. The company is one of the world's largest processors of plastics, chemicals and petroleum products.
The French company Air Liquide with revenues of USD 23bn rounds out the top three. Through its subsidiaries, it produces and sells industrial and medical gases including liquid nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide and oxygen worldwide. The company also manufactures welding, diving and medical equipment.
Linde, a German company, had revenues of USD 18bn in 2023. The company manufactures and distributes industrial gases and provides engineering services.
Evonik Industries is one of the world's leading speciality chemicals company with revenue of USD 16bn in 2023. The company offers various products in the fields of consumer goods, animal nutrition and pharmaceuticals.
Covestro is a global leader in the development, production, and marketing of polyurethanes, a class of plastics. The company's revenue in 2023 reached 15bn USD
Umicore N.V. has revenues of 15 billion USD in 2023. It is a Belgian global materials technology group. Its business areas include materials science, chemistry, and metallurgy. The company is focused on catalysis, energy and recycling.
Brenntag is a leading global distributor of chemical products and food ingredients with revenues of USD 14bn in 2023.
UK-based Johnson Matthey has revenue of USD 13.5bn in 2023. It produces catalysts, pharmaceutical materials and pollution control systems.