Petrotahlil :Six major petrochemical companies have set up a consortium to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels.
Chaired by the Netherlands-based Brightlands Chemelot Campus, the Cracker of the Future consortium includes BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, Sabic and Total and aims to produce base chemicals while significantly reducing carbon emissions.
In a 26-Aug statement, the consortium identified steam crackers as “the principal opportunity” for reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, adding that one option currently under consideration is to electrically heat the cracking furnaces, instead of using fossil fuels.
Steam crackers produce base chemicals, including ethylene, propylene, butadiene and BTX, which are mainly transformed into plastics.
“The key challenges in developing electricity-based cracker technology are ensuring that the chosen emissions reduction solution is technologically and economically feasible compared to the current process; that it fits into a future low-carbon value chain; and that it can be implemented in time to meet policy targets,” the consortium statement noted.
Once the challenges are met, the statement added, developing and implementing electricity-based cracker technology will help the sector maintain sustainable operations while reducing the carbon footprint of its products.
The consortium partners have also agreed to invest in R&D and knowledge sharing as they assess the possibility of transitioning their base chemical production to renewable electricity.
The companies have already begun exploring and screening technical options for the cracker of the future.
“If a potential technical solution is identified, the parties will determine whether to pursue joint development project(s), including R&D activities that could include a demonstrator for proof of concept in the case of base chemicals,” the statement added.
The collaboration is supported by the Trilateral Strategy for the chemical industry drawn up by the North Rhine-Westphalian, Flemish and Dutch ministries of economic affairs and the industry associations VCI (Germany), Essenscia (Belgium) and VNCI (Netherlands) to boost the sustainability of the chemical sector.
The strategy aims to make the region “the world ́s engine for the transition towards a sustainable and competitive chemical industry cluster” and includes three “tables” of energy, infrastructure and innovation.
The combined trilateral region of the Netherlands, North Rhine-Westphalia and Flanders is the largest chemical cluster in the world with annual revenue of €180bn and 350,000 jobs.
‘This is a unique collaboration that aims to reduce our industry’s carbon footprint for the betterment of society as a whole," said Bert Kip, chair of the Trilateral Innovation Table and CEO of Brightlands Chemelot Campus.
"It demonstrates the commitment of our industry to collectively seek technological solutions to minimize greenhouse gas emissions from our operations. We are proud to have taken this first step together and look forward to the successes that lie ahead,” he concluded.
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