In March 2021, BASF, SABIC and Linde entered into a joint agreement to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrically heated steam cracking furnaces. The partners recently inaugurated the world’s first demonstration plant for such technology on a large scale at BASF’s Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Steam cracker at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site. Source: BASFSteam cracker at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site. Source: BASF

Steam crackers play a central role in the production of basic chemicals and typically require a significant amount of conventional fuels to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics. The new facility is engineered to demonstrate that continuous olefin production is possible using electricity as a heat source. By using electricity from renewable sources, this approach offers potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions of the energy-intensive production process by at least 90% compared to technologies more commonly used.

Capable of fully integrating with existing steam crackers and reaching the requisite process temperature of 850° C, the demo plant produces olefins such as ethylene and propylene from hydrocarbon feedstock. As part of the data gathering process, two furnaces will test direct and indirect heating concepts using around four tons of feedstock per hour, powered by 6 MW of renewable energy.

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