REPSOL and Versalis have joined the Cracker of the Future consortium, which is working to develop technology to electrify the steam cracking process.
The consortium was launched in 2019 and includes firms responsible for around one third of the EU’s steam cracking capacity, including BP and TotalEnergies. The consortium has been evaluating technologies that could use electricity to replace the fossil fuels currently used to heat crackers. The group says it will soon select a preferred electricity-based heating technology for demonstration next year. It expects commercial deployment could come as soon as 2026.
Steam crackers convert naphtha or natural gas liquids into chemical building blocks including ethylene, propylene, and aromatics. The process uses a significant amount of energy and is conducted in fossil-fuelled furnaces at about 850oC. EU crackers emit around 30m t/y of CO2, equivalent to around 25% of all chemical industry emissions in the bloc, the consortium says. Electric cracking, using renewable power would help significantly reduce emissions.
A key second challenge is that the feedstock used in crackers to produce chemicals is primarily from fossil feedstocks, including naphtha, LPG and ethane. Using bio-naphtha and pyrolysis oil from waste plastics would help industry develop a circular economy and replace virgin fossil feedstocks.
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