In his introduction, the CHAIRMAN indicated that the papers selected had been chosen to cover both the general aspects of the changing scene for petrochemical raw materials, emphasising the likely impact on the petrochemical industry itself, and various more specific topics that highlighted current developments in the field.
The first paper, examining current trends and future prospects for the petrochemical industry and its technology, was presented by the author, N. N.
R. F. BADDOUR (USA) queried whether the large amount of petrochemical capacity becoming available in the Arabian peninsula would accelerate the pressure for technological improvement, identified by Dr. HOCHGRAF as a driving trend for any industry, resulting in a steady decrease in real prices with time.
Dr. HOCHGRAF commented that petrochemical investment in the Arabian Gulf was clearly part of national industrial objectives, and part of the process of using inexpensive feedstock and energy where available in the world. The pace of investment has slowed in recent years, but clearly there will be an effect on prices at the margin in the market place.
Growth will continue to be greater than in the USA, Europe or Japan, in part because exports to those developed markets will be economic.
G. CEVIDALLI (Israel) commented that the 50 year periodicity of surges in innovations, and the link with periodicity of depressions, identified by Dr.
HOCHGRAF, looked very similar to the 45/55 year business cycle periodicity first described by Russian workers in the early 1920s. He queried whether a resurgence of the petrochemical industry, in the first or second decade of the next century, might be expected to flow from factors far removed from today's innovatory thrust. Dr. HOCHGRAF commented that the Russian work was in fact predated by that of some Dutch researchers in about 1913; both groups, however, were forced to work with an extremely limited data base, living as they were only some 125 years after the industrial revolution itself.
He felt that the greater data now available goes a long way towards establishing the existence of these longer cycles, though of course there is still considerable discussion, not to say dissent, among economists on the topic. Turning to the question of the next upward cycle for petrochemicals, Dr. HOCHGRAF felt that we faced some years of relatively low innovation. What was clear was that, in the context of the driving trend towards reducing prices, some of today's very complex technological processes, such as coal gasification, condensation and subsequent product reaction, seemed unlikely to provide the major upward thrust towards