Chemical giants BASF and SABIC and global industrial gases and engineering company Linde announced today an agreement to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrically heated steam cracker furnaces, in a bid to significantly reduce CO2 emissions within the chemical industry.

According to the companies, steam crackers play a central role in the production of basic chemicals and require a significant amount of energy to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics, with reactions conducted at temperatures of approximately 850 degrees Celsius. By using electricity from renewable sources to power these temperatures, rather than current methods involving the burning of fossil fuels, the companies estimate the new technology has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 90%.

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Dr. Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE, said:

“This technology leap will be a milestone on the path to a low-emission chemical industry. We have not only developed the world’s first electrical heating concepts for steam crackers, but also want to demonstrate the reliability of key components for use in this type of high-temperature reactors. To be able to drive a timely scale-up and industrial implementation of this technology, investment support and competitive renewable energy prices will be important prerequisites.”

The companies stated that they are evaluating construction of a multi-megawatt demonstration plant at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site, targeted for start-up as early as 2023, subject to a positive funding decision, and have applied for financial grants at the EU Innovation Fund and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment’s new funding program Decarbonization in Industry.

Yousef Al-Benyan, Vice-Chairman and CEO of SABIC said:

“Our industry thrives on innovation and collaboration which enable us to come up with and deliver important contributions to urgent global challenges like resource efficiency and CO2 reduction. This agreement brings together the deep technical knowledge and implementation focus that can help transition energy-intensive processes within our industry to be low carbon emitting processes. This flagship sustainability initiative forms part of SABIC’s long-term vision and climate change strategy to transform our business on the path towards carbon neutrality”.

Juergen Nowicki, Executive Vice President Linde plc and CEO of Linde Engineering, added:

“With this project we are singling out a particular industrial CO2 producer. Cracking furnaces are one of the largest CO2 emission sources in the whole petrochemical value chain. This is a time-tested, optimized technology that we are now putting on a completely new footing, not in the laboratory, but on a large industrial scale. The effect this project will have is significant. We are proud to be part of it.”