TOTAL
The “cracker of the future” consortium

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Europe’s petrochemical industry has 40 steam cracker sites that currently produce 31 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year as they break-up raw materials to create base chemicals for polymers, crucial for manufacturing of goods. The emissions come primarily from energy use – so a key decarbonization opportunity is to develop technologies that can heat the 800°C+ furnaces with electricity instead of fossil fuels.

That is the aim of the Cracker of the Future consortium. Part of the Innovation table of the Trilateral Strategy led by Brightlands Chemelot Campus and chaired by Total, the consortium is exploring and screening technical solutions with its partners.

Their aim is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the operation of steam crackers, with technology to be demonstrated and ready for large-scale implementation by 2030.

The consortium has produced a technical report on state-of-the-art physical concepts for heating via electricity up to 900°C and are currently narrowing down by consulting equipment providers based on maturity and scalability. The partners have jointly agreed to invest in R&D and knowledge sharing and have applied for two conceptual patents.

Nevertheless, the challenge is huge. Replacing fossil fuels at these sites will require around 171 terawatt hours a year or about 20 GW generating capacity of renewable electricity. This need for renewable energy is about half that installed globally or two times that installed in Europe in 2019.

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