BASF, SABIC and Linde Start Building Demo E-cracker

06.09.2022 - BASF, SABIC and Linde have started building a plant to demonstrate using electricity instead of natural gas to heat steam cracker furnaces. The move follows the signing of a joint agreement in March 2021 to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrifying steam crackers.

The plant will be fully integrated into one of BASF’s existing steam crackers in Ludwigshafen, Germany. By using electricity from renewable sources, the technology could potentially reduce CO2 emissions from steam crackers by at least 90% compared with existing technologies, the companies said.

They will test two different heating concepts in parallel. In one, an electric current will be applied directly to the process tubes inside the reactor. In the other, radiative heat from elements placed around the tubes will indirectly heat the furnace. The companies said testing the alternative methods will make it possible to react flexibly to different customer and site requirements.

BASF and SABIC are investing together in the plant, which will be operated by the German group. Linde is the engineering, procurement and construction partner for the project and will commercialize the technologies in the future. The demo facility is scheduled to start up in 2023.

Martin Brudemüller, chairman of the board of executive directors at BASF, said electrification of the steam cracker is a “significant milestone” in its transformation journey toward net zero, while SABIC’s vice chairman and CEO Yousef Al-Benyan said the project “holds huge potential for all of the petrochemical industry around the world in our drive for low carbon-emitting processes.”

The project received €14.8 million from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action under its Decarbonization in Industry funding program.

In a rival project, Shell and Dow started up last June an experimental unit to electrically heat steam cracker furnaces in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Over the coming year, the companies will test a theoretical electrification model developed for retrofitting existing gas-fired steam cracker furnaces. In a next phase, they could design and build a multi-megawatt pilot plant that could potentially start up in 2025.

Author: Elaine Burridge, Freelance Journalist