How petroleum plays a critical role in our healthcare
Most Canadians typically only think about Canada’s oil and gas when filling up their gas tank or lighting their barbeque. What they don’t realize is that petroleum and petroleum chemicals are extremely versatile and can be found in many products we use every day including plastics, textiles, packaging, detergents, fertilizers.
Our healthcare system also relies on petroleum not only to power hospitals and transport patients, but to manufacture equipment and pharmaceuticals.
How are petroleum-based products being used in healthcare? Here is a breakdown:
Energy consumption in hospitals is largely used for space heating and cooling, steam generation, ventilation, high powered lighting, equipment usage, hot water, and cooking. Natural gas provides approximately two-thirds of the typical Canadian hospital’s energy requirements.
The remainder is provided by electricity, which can be generated from natural gas, coal, hydro, wind, solar, biomass or nuclear sources.
Ambulances run on gasoline and diesel while air ambulances and helicopters run on aviation fuel. Ontario’s Ornge air ambulance service sent helicopters and fixed wing aircraft on more than 8,000 missions last year, travelling over 17 million kilometres to ensure life-saving care for critical patients. STARS air ambulance, which serves Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, had 2,994 missions last year, and responded to more than 32,000 emergency requests.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
PPE is a mainstay in healthcare centres. Gloves, respirators, goggles, gowns and face shields are all produced using petrochemicals.
Most of the main components of an N‑95 mask are made from petroleum products such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which are polymers derived from natural gas and produced during the petroleum refining process.
Plastic is a very common element contained in medical equipment and devices required for medical procedures and patient care:
- X‑rays and MRIs
- Artificial limbs
- Fiberglass casts
Petroleum and petrochemicals are used to provide polymers for pill capsules and coatings; and packaging for pharmaceuticals is often produced from plastic to keep products sterile, child proof and safe from breakage.
Recycling plastics to reduce waste
The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada estimates 70,000 products used by Canadians every day are made from plastics.
Canada’s plastics industry is committed to solving the plastic waste problem and has set a goal to make 100 per cent of plastic packaging recyclable or recoverable by 2030.
The production of highly recyclable plastics such as polyethylene is imperative to meeting this goal.
Through innovation and technology, the petrochemical industry is transitioning towards a circular economy where materials are reused and recycled in a closed and sustainable loop.