Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017

Landscape of the European Chemical Industry 2017




562 million €

Number of companies


Direct employees


National contact

Federation of Estonian Chemical Industries / Eesti Keemiatoostuse Liit

Hallar Meybaum

Executive Director


Chemical industry snapshot

Small, strong and growing

The Estonian chemical industry is a small but specialised and export-oriented. Sales in 2014 were €562 million, or 5.0% of industrial output, in a country where industry is already 20% of Estonian GDP, having achieved the EU’s 2020 target. Production of shale oil is excluded from chemical industry figures, though producers are members of the Federation of Estonian Chemical Industries (FECI) because they must comply with EU chemicals regulations.

Winning in export markets

Chemicals is one of the most competitive industries in Estonia, with a high growth potential. Exports are 75% of production.

How are we doing?

Clustered for efficiency

The Estonian chemical industry is concentrated the county of East-Viru. It is especially strong in the chemistry of shale oil production, which began in 1924, and in rare earth metals and their oxides.

Mainly small

In 2014 Estonia had 97 chemical companies, but only two had more than 250 employees. The 2,536 chemical workers are 2.4% of Estonia’s manufacturing total, though together FECI members employ twice as many.

But expert in some specialties

Main exports are shale oil, phenols, benzoic acid, sodium benzoate, and plasticizers, rare earth metals and their oxides. Sealants and construction adhesives are also an export success, and Estonia has long experience in cosmetics and applied chemistry such as home care products. Production of urea fertilizers has ceased.

With a chemicals trade deficit - Overview of exports and imports

Collaborating closely with research institutions

The Estonian chemical industry co-operates closely with research institutions. And Estonian universities that teach chemistry and engineering have facilities that belong to the FECI.

How are we doing?


  • Success in niche markets
  • Unique experience and knowledge as the only European manufacturer of rare earth metals and their oxides
  • Leading global producer of polyurethane foams
  • Europe-leading position and unmatched know-how in shale oil This provides energy self-reliance and expertise in shale oil technologies including production equipment
  • Location on the EU border offers port connections and access to the Russian market
  • A skilled and affordable workforce


  • An urgent need to recruit young workers and scientists as older workers and academics retire
  • High and rising energy prices; no incentives for energy-intensive industries
  • Complex and burdensome EU legislation and a tendency to supplement EU legislation with national environmental taxes
  • Heavy reliance upon indirect taxes and tendency to unexpected tax changes creates uncertainty and discourages investment
  • Inadequate support for SMEs: more effort needed to help them cope with the growing regulatory burden and enhance their access to R&D
  • Need to improve reduce environmental impact and use raw materials more efficiently

Our contribution to a competitive Europe

Aided by the FECI and other industry representatives, Estonia is developing a Green Paper setting out policies on industry.

Oiling the wheels of industry

Estonia’s good-quality shale oil reserves should underpin national industrial development. Government must provide a supportive framework, including for chemistry. This includes sustaining and developing the scientific and technical expertise needed by the chemical industry as well as developing new technologies and processes, including for bio-based production.

Specialising through technology

A smart specialisation strategy, compiled by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications aims to enhance the research-intensity of the Estonian economy, collaboration between R&D institutions and companies, and the capabilities of R&D institutions to support business.

The Development Fund´s analysis has identified key areas:

  • Information and communications technology (ICT) horizontally via other sectors
  • Health technologies and services
  • Enhancement of resources

Resource enhancement embraces support of entrepreneurs in materials science and industry and developing use of shale oil in the chemical industry.