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Eye of Riyadh
Environment & Energy | Friday 19 April, 2024 9:55 am |

SABIC, BASF, Linde launch demo plant for world's 1st electric steam cracker furnace

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), BASF and Linde inaugurated today, April 17, the demonstration plant for the world’s first large-scale electrically heated steam cracking furnaces, following three years of development, engineering, and construction works.


The regular operation of the demonstration plant is now ready to start at BASF’s Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, Germany, according to a statement.


In March 2021, the three companies signed a joint agreement to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrically heated steam cracking furnaces.


Steam crackers play a central role in the production of basic chemicals and require a significant amount of energy to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics. Typically, the reaction is conducted in furnaces at temperatures of about 850°C. These temperatures have so far been reached by using conventional fuels.


The demonstration plant aims to show that continuous olefin production is possible using electricity as a heat source. By using electricity from renewable sources, the new technology has the potential to reduce carbon emissions of one of the most energy-intensive production processes in the chemical industry by at least 90% compared to technologies commonly used today, the statement said.


The plant, which produces olefins such as ethylene, propylene and possibly also higher olefins from saturated hydrocarbon feedstock, is fully integrated into the existing steam crackers in Ludwigshafen.


The operation of this demo plant will enable gathering data and knowledge about material behavior and processes under commercial operating conditions for the final development of this innovative technology to industrial market maturity. In two separate demonstration furnaces, two different heating concepts will be tested. In one furnace, direct heating applies an electric current directly to the cracking coils, while in the other, indirect heating uses radiative heat of heating elements placed around the coils. The two electrically heated furnaces together process around four tons of hydrocarbon feedstock per hour and consume six megawatts of renewable energy.


To support the development of the novel furnace technology, the project was granted €14.8 million by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action under its “Decarbonization in Industry” funding program that supports energy-intensive industries in Germany in the efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.


SABIC's CEO Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh said, "The e-furnace’s technology holds huge potential for the sustainability of the global petrochemical industry. It can demonstrate the role that renewable electricity can play in higher efficiency and low-emission chemical processing.”


He added, “Through close collaboration, teamwork, intellectual property development, and advancing the best technical solutions holistically, the teams at SABIC, BASF and Linde have brought this project to this key stage. We are proud to be here together today to celebrate the power of collective action on our journey toward a circular carbon economy.”


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