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Comment Sustainability

Dow and Shell team up to develop electric-cracking technology

By Gerald Ondrey |

Dow, Inc. (Midland, Mich.) and Shell Chemicals (London, U.K.) today announced a joint-development agreement to accelerate technology to electrify ethylene steam crackers, which supply chemicals used to make products that people use every day. 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.

The collaboration between the two companies is already underway and brings together their complementary expertise and common commitment to a low-carbon future.  Innovation project teams, in Amsterdam and Terneuzen, the Netherlands and Texas, are focused on designing and scaling “e-cracker” technologies.  They will work, in the coming years, to first prove out process technology innovations in laboratory and pilot operations, and to then scale to commercial crackers.

“Continuously improving the sustainability of our operations is an inherent part of how we operate at Dow,” says Keith Cleason, vice president Dow Olefins, Aromatics and Alternatives business. “Significant technological breakthroughs are needed to reduce our industry’s energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions, which will require companies to step out of their comfort zones and work together to achieve bold and ambitious new goals. Our partnership with Shell is an important step in making this vision a reality.”

Thomas Casparie, executive vice president of Shell’s global chemicals business, says “Steam cracking makes base chemicals, which are transformed into a range of finished products that help society live, work and respond to climate change. This new work with Dow has the potential to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions from the manufacture of chemicals and to Shell’s ambition of becoming a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner.”

For more about this type of technology, see “A Push for ‘Green Crackers,’ Chem. Eng., April 2020, pp. 14–17.

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