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Petrochemicals

European chemical makers plan ‘cracker of the future’

Consortium of six firms plans to reduce carbon footprint of petrochemical production

by Alex Scott
September 4, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 35

09735-buscon5-basf.jpg
Credit: BASF
An electric heating element BASF is developing for its petrochemical crackers

Six companies with petrochemical steam crackers in Europe have formed the Cracker of the Future Consortium to develop cracker technology with a carbon footprint that is a small fraction of the current level. The companies seek to make the carbon savings by replacing natural gas–based boilers with ones that use renewable electricity.

The six companies are BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell Industries, Sabic, and Total. They plan to have a pilot low-carbon-footprint cracker in operation by 2030 and widespread commercial-scale production by 2050.

The companies have signed an agreement to invest in R&D and share their knowledge, says Lia Voermans, director of strategy and innovation for Brightlands, a technology consulting organization in the Netherlands that is helping to coordinate the consortium. “It is a very bold plan. And the way in which they are doing it together is unique,” Voermans says.

The consortium is already in discussions with the European Commission about securing funding for the project.

BASF disclosed earlier this year that it has begun developing an electric element for heating its naphtha cracker boilers in association with the industrial gas firm Linde. The German chemical maker envisions cutting CO2 emissions per cracker by 90%—or by 750,000 metric tons annually across the company.

The Cracker of the Future Consortium is one of several initiatives being promoted by the Trilateral Strategy for the Chemical Industry, which was created by government groups in German, the Netherlands, and Belgium, along with chemical industry associations in the three countries. Parties to the Trilateral Strategy are also working on digitalization, hydrogen production and supply, electrochemical conversions, and using biomass as a feedstock.

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