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Six petrochemical companies have formed a consortium to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels

trilateral 650Petrochemical companies form Cracker of the Future Consortium. (Image source: Brightlands)

The six companies are BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, SABIC and Total.

The aim is to produce base chemicals while significantly reducing carbon emissions. The companies have agreed to invest in R&D and knowledge sharing as they assess the possibility of transitioning their base chemical production to renewable electricity.

Steam crackers represent the principal opportunity for reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. One option is to heat the cracking furnaces electrically.

However, the major challenges in developing electricity-based cracker technology are ensuring that the solution chosen to reduce emissions is technically and economically feasible compared to the current process; that it fits into the future low-carbon value chain; and that it can be implemented in time to meet policy targets.

Following the signing of the agreement, the members of the consortium began exploring and reviewing technical options. If a potential technical solution is identified, the parties will determine whether to pursue joint development projects, including research and development activities that could include a demonstration device for proof of concept in the case of base chemicals.

The collaboration is a direct result of 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 trilateral region of the Netherlands, North Rhine-Westphalia and Flanders is the largest chemical cluster in the world with annual revenue of US$190bn and 350,000 jobs.

Bert Kip, chair of the Trilateral Innovation Table and CEO of Brightlands Chemelot Campus, said, “This is a unique collaboration that aims to reduce our industry’s carbon footprint for the betterment of society as a whole. It demonstrates the commitment of our industry to collectively seek technological solutions to minimise greenhouse gas emissions from our operations.”