BASF, SABIC and Linde in Cracker Electrification Pact

25.03.2021 - BASF, SABIC and Linde have signed a joint agreement to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrically heated steam cracker furnaces and are evaluating the construction of a multi-megawatt demonstration plant at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site in Germany, to start up in 2023.

The companies, which have already worked together on concepts to use renewable electricity instead of the fossil fuel-based gas typically used for heating the furnaces, have applied for funding under the EU Innovation Fund and Germany’s Decarbonization in Industry program.

BASF and SABIC are contributing their combined knowhow and intellectual property in developing chemical processes and operating steam crackers,  Linde its intellectual property and expertise in developing cracker furnace technologies.

“This technology leap will be a milestone on the path to a low-emission chemical industry,” said Martin Brudermüller, CEO of BASF.  Steam crackers require a lot of energy to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics. Typically, the reaction is conducted in the furnaces at about 850oC, which requires burning fossil fuel.  The new project aims to use electricity from renewable sources, which could potentially reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 90%. 

“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,” Brudermüller said.

In August 2019, BASF and SABIC joined four other companies to create the Cracker of the Future consortium. The six partners including Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell and Total, aimed to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity.

The collaboration was a direct result of the Trilateral Strategy for the Chemical Industry, a cross-border cooperation between the Netherlands, Flanders in Belgium and North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.  There has been no further update on the outcome of this collaboration so far.

Last June, Dow and Shell announced they were also working together to accelerate the development of electrification technology for steam crackers. Project teams based in the Netherlands and the US are designing “e-cracker” technologies, planning to prove them at pilot-scale before scaling up to commercial crackers in the coming years.

Author: Elaine Burridge, Freelance Journalist