Six petrochemical companies in Flanders, Belgium, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and the Netherlands will create a consortium to investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels.
The Cracker of the Future consortium, which includes BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, SABIC and Total, aims to produce base chemicals while also significantly reducing carbon emissions. Base chemicals, which include ethylene, propylene, butadiene and BTX, are produced in steam crackers and mainly transformed into plastics. These are used for lightweight components in vehicles, improving passenger safety and comfort and reducing fuel and emissions. Plastic packaging saves and preserves food from field to table. Overall, polymers make a major contribution to resource and energy efficiency and positively impact society. Polymers will always be needed, especially in emerging, renewable energy-related technologies, where they are crucial, for instance for wind turbines, solar panels and batteries. The chemical industry has been at the forefront of those innovations and will continue to deliver solutions for a more sustainable future.
Steam crackers represent the principal opportunity for reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. One option currently under consideration is to electrically heat the cracking furnaces, rather than rely on fossil fuels. Using electricity produced from renewable sources would significantly reduce cracker emissions. 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.