There are as many reasons for why petrochemistry will continue to grow, as there are applications: Our everyday life is unthinkable without plastics."
Marketing responsible for the Energy segment at Borealis
“There are as many reasons for why petrochemistry will continue to grow, as there are applications”, says Bart Verheule. He is responsible for Energy marketing of plastics raw material manufacturer Borealis, in which OMV holds a 36 percent stake: Crude oil is all around us, all day long, but most obviously as the plastic in our tooth brush, the housing of our computer or in various parts of our car, to name just a few applications. And plastic also enables the Internet: It is integral part of the data cables bringing the Internet signals to our computers.
Borealis is an international leader for data cable coatings. The company purchases a major part of their required insulation materials from OMV. “From OMV refineries’ ethylene and propylene we produce polyethylene and polypropylene. Both materials are used in a multitude of everyday products. In data cables they enable fast, efficient, high-bandwidth signal transmission”, explains Bart Verheule.
No cable, no wireless
There is a rapidly growing demand for specialty plastics to produce cables. Today, approximately one million kilometers of data cables are sold worldwide every year. “Just look at how much our world has changed over the last 20 years: We shop online, we bank online, we work online. All the while, the number of people using landline computers and telephones is steadily decreasing. Considering our ever-growing mobility with smartphones, laptops or tablets, one could indeed come to the conclusion that soon we will not need data cables anymore. But that would be wrong: Data cables have a very important role to play: At Borealis we say: Wireless bits are bits looking for a data cable. No data cable, no wireless.”
Data transmission, be it via Wi-Fi or fixed wiring, flows via data cables through fibre optic cables connected to data centres. The integrity of these data cables is critical for the data network’s capability. We all know: The further away our mobile device is from the next hotspot, the more our connection slows down. We still use a data cable to plug our laptop directly into the Internet when we want a really fast connection – for example, to download large data volumes. Or take hospitals and air traffic control: For applications like these, data transmission must be absolutely failure-free, and you can only achieve this reliability with data cables.
More air makes a better signal
A modern data cable is engineered for optimal transport of large data volumes. A data cable consists of four twisted pairs of plastic insulated wire which combine to make a typical data cable. This enables it to transmit ultrafast signals.
The individual cables have to be insulated from each other, so they do not impair each other’s function. Air is the most efficient insulator, and this is the reason why a lot of special Borealis expertise goes into packing as much air as possible into the plastic. “You can compare our foamed polyethylene to a polystyrene cup keeping your coffee warm. The better the polystyrene, the cooler the cup feels on the outside and the longer it keeps your coffee warm. It’s the same with data cables: The more air you put in the insulation, the higher the signal strength”, says Bart Verheule.
Smart homes will push the demand even further. Today, computers and phones are connected via data cables, perhaps even TVs. But in the future, washing machines, fridges, heating systems and lights, too, will be part of the data network. The networking trend is everywhere. And it’s one of the reasons, why OMV has such a strong petrochemical focus.
Already today, OMV refineries can produce approximately 2.5 million tons of petrochemicals per year – more than 10 percent of OMV’s total refined product sales. With an increasing tendency: Experts expect the market for petrochemicals to grow by two to three percent per year over the next decade – making it a very promising growth potential.