Europe’s petrochemicals industry initiatives to decarbonize & deliver on EU Green Deal
Our member companies have already taken initiatives to reduce their own carbon footprint while fostering innovation in low-carbon technologies. These initiatives range from the electrification of steam crackers (facilities in which fossil fuels are turned into chemicals) to Carbon Capture and Storage/ Utilisation (CCS/CCU) and circular economy projects.
Petrochemicals Europe, an industry sector of Cefic, supports the European Green Deal and Europe’s ambition to become climate neutral by 2050. Reaching this goal will only be possible with the help of climate neutral and circular economy solutions developed by our industry. The chemical industry is indispensable to Europe’s strong and sustainable economy of the future, as chemicals are present in almost every strategic value chain. Yet, we face an enormous challenge to implement the necessary massive changes in energy transition and business models. The industry calls for a “sectoral Green Deal for the chemical industry”: a consolidation of all relevant policies, including chemicals, trade, tax, enforcement and competition, so that they serve the same goal, which is to attract investments into Europe and create markets for circular and low-carbon products developed by the industry.
Please find below a few examples of the initiatives our members have been taking to decarbonise their assets:
Electrification of crackers
In June 2020, Dow and Shell today announced a joint development agreement to accelerate technology to electrify ethylene steam crackers. Today’s steam crackers rely on fossil fuel combustion to heat their furnaces, making them CO2 intensive. As the energy grid becomes increasingly renewables led, using renewable electricity to heat steam cracker furnaces could become one of the routes to decarbonize the chemicals industry. The challenge is to develop a technologically and economically feasible solution.
Crackers of the future consortium
In August 2018, six petrochemical companies in Flanders, Belgium, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and the Netherlands (Trilateral Region) announced the creation of a consortium to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels. The Cracker of the Future consortium, which includes BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, SABIC and Total, aims to produce base chemicals (ethylene, propylene, butadiene and BTX) while also 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. Using electricity produced from renewable sources would significantly reduce cracker emissions.
The project entitled Antwerp@C aims to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere and so to make a significant contribution towards the climate objectives, thanks to applications for capturing and utilising or storing CO2, all within a relatively short time span and at reasonable costs. The project has the potential to reduce the CO2 emissions within the port (18.65 million tonnes greenhouse gas emissions in 2017) by half between now and 2030. A number of companies located at the Port of Antwerp including our members, BASF, Borealis, ExxonMobil, INEOS, and Total are part of it to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of building CO2 infrastructure to support future CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage) applications.
In September 2018, LyondellBasell (NYSE: LYB) and its joint venture partner Covestro kicked-off a large investment project at their site in Maasvlakte-Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Circular Steam Project incorporates an innovative technology into the existing production plant to convert its water-based waste into energy. The new installation will take the site’s existing production process to a higher level of efficiency and sustainability, resulting in an overall annual reduction of ca. 140,000 metric tons CO2 emissions, 0.9 Petajoule of energy and avoiding the release of 11 million kilograms of salt residue into the surface water.
The “MMAtwo” project, which aims at improving Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) recycling technology, was selected by the European Commission within the SPIRE-10 call to receive funds from Horizon 2020, the EU Research & Innovation programme (2017-2020). The project could unleash a significant recycling potential and turn the PMMA consumption model from a linear to a more circular one. PMMA is a very durable, solid and versatile plastic that can last up to 20 years and which is used in a number of applications from architecture and automotive to transportation. The project coordinated by the Dutch company, Heathland, was launched in October 2018 and the Metacrylates Sector Group sits in its advisory Board.
Pilot MoReTec molecular recycling facility
LyondellBasell started the plant in September 2020 with the aim to return consumer plastic waste to its molecular form for use as a feedstock for new plastic materials.
Petrochemicals companies have also signed partnerships with plastics recyclers:
- Quality Circular Polymers (QCP) Joint venture between LyondellBasell and Suez
- BASF’s partnerships with Quantafuel and New Energy
- SABIC with Plastic Energy: pilot use of recycled feedstock to produce polymers that will be certified as having been made with recycled materials
- Borealis, acquired the German plastics recycler MTM Plastics, a mechanical recycler of mixed post-consumer plastic waste and is one of Europe’s largest producers of post-consumer polyolefin recyclates.
- ‘Project Lodestar’ with 14 other companies in the value chain: mechanical recycling and feedstock recycling in an advanced Plastics Recycling Facility (aPRF)
- Neste partnership with Remondis to develop chemical recycling of plastic waste, collaboration with ReNew ELP, and investment in Recycling Technologies
- Total with Recycling Technologies and Nestlé and Mars to undertake a feasibility study to deploy a pyrolysis-based feedstock recycling plant in France.