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Comment Sustainability

Dow and Shell demonstrate progress in joint technology development for lower CO2 emission crackers

By Gerald Ondrey |

Following announcement of a joint development agreement in June 2020, Dow, Inc. (Midland, Mich.) and Shell Chemicals (London, U.K.) now report progress on their technology program to electrically heat steam cracker furnaces. This new route has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from one of the central processes of the chemical industry.

The companies confirm that the joint program has been awarded €3.5 million ($4.2 million) in MOOI (Mission-driven Research, Development and Innovation subsidy) scheme funding by the Netherlands Government. They also announce joining forces with The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO; The Hague) and the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT; Amersfoort, the Netherlands). This multi-company collaboration aims to accelerate key milestones for the near-term progress and longer-term breakthroughs needed.

In the first year, the program has advanced electrification solutions for today’s steam crackers while also pursuing game-changing technologies for novel designs of electrified crackers in the longer-term. The dual-path approach aims to support emission reductions required to meet the companies’ 2030 CO2 ambitions and their targets to achieve net zero emissions businesses by 2050 or sooner, in line with the Paris agreement.  Joint teams in the the Netherlands and the U.S. have deployed their expertise in electrical design, metallurgy, hydrocarbon technology and computational fluid dynamics to narrow down concepts, validate emissions benefits, advance patents, demonstrate the durability of electric heating elements, and partner with equipment suppliers.

The companies are now evaluating construction of a multi-megawatt pilot plant, with potential start-up in 2025, subject to investment support.

The two new collaborators bring further expertise and a common commitment to a low-carbon future. TNO has deep knowledge in high temperature heat transfer applications and plays a leading role in identifying innovative electrical technologies that could be deployed in industry. It is a founding partner of the state-of-the-art Field Laboratory Industrial Electrification in Rotterdam.  ISPT is focused on the system integration of preferred concepts, connecting the dynamics of breakthrough technologies with those of utilities and infrastructure in the chemicals industry through the energy transition.

Thomas Casparie, executive vice president of Shell’s global chemicals business, says “Being selected for funding from the Dutch Government is a vote of confidence in the initial progress of this joint e-cracking program, and its potential to help transform the chemicals industry. The effort is an example of genuine cross-company collaboration to accelerate decarbonization, and it’s great to have our two new partners aboard.”

“Our multidisciplined team has forged a strong working foundation and made significant progress in the first year of our multi-generational plan,” says Keith Cleason, vice president Dow Olefins, Aromatics and Alternatives business. “We are pleased to add ISPT and TNO to the joint programme as they bring complementary expertise and share the same drive to bring viable, low-carbon technologies online as soon as they are feasible.”

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