The need for greater sustainability for the production of fuels and chemicals has spurred significant research to rethink the energy use in the chemical industry, and eventually substitute fossil fuel sources by renewable sources. Nowadays, the chemical industry is responsible for about one third of the total energy used - and the associated CO2 emissions - in the industrial sector. Most of the thermal energy used in the chemical industry is not fully recovered (by process-process stream heat exchange), but removed as low grade waste heat that ends up released into the environment. Moreover, there are certain energy intensive operations such as distillation which alone is responsible for about 40 % of the energy used in the chemical process industry.
This paper aims to provide an informative perspective on the energy use in the chemical industry. The scope of this mini-review includes: current energy use, eco-efficiency aspects in chemical process industry, Process Integration for heat recovery, thermal energy upgrade by heat pumps, and advanced distillation technologies (reactive distillation, dividing-wall column, cyclic distillation) that can significantly reduce the energy usage and the carbon footprint of the modern chemical plants. Based on the provided overview, several important new research directions are defined towards rethinking the energy use for a more sustainable chemical industry.