Dow and Shell start up an electrified steam cracker – Chemical Engineering

By Mary Page Bailey |

Shell Chemicals and Dow have started an experimental unit to electrically heat steam cracking furnaces at the energy transition campus in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This represents a key step in the companies’ joint technology program to electrify steam cracking furnaces, bringing the companies one step closer to decarbonizing one of the most carbon-intensive aspects of petrochemical manufacturing.

Over the next year, the experimental unit will be used to test a theoretical electrification model developed to retrofit today’s gas-fired steam cracking furnaces. The data generated by the unit will be used to validate the model and allow the electrification program to progress to the next phase; the design and construction of a multi-megawatt pilot plant, with potential start-up in 2025, subject to investment support.

Thomas Casparie, Senior Vice President of Shell’s Chemicals and Products business in Europe, said: “Today we have taken a big step forward in helping to decarbonize one of our industry’s core processes, while supporting Shell’s goal of being net-zero by 2050. I look forward to the results of the experimental unit and to continuing this vital collaboration with Dow.

“This milestone demonstrates that low-carbon manufacturing technologies are within reach,” said Keith Cleason, Dow Olefins vice president, Aromatics and Alternatives business. “Collaborating with Shell has the potential to reshape the way our industry makes products in the decades to come.”

As the energy grid becomes increasingly focused on renewable energy, using renewable electricity to heat steam cracking furnaces could become one of the ways to decarbonize the chemical industry. Electronic cracking furnaces powered by renewable electricity have the potential to reduce scope1 emissions by 90% at economically competitive costs compared to conventional crackers.

Last year, the program received funding of 3.5 million euros ($4.2 million) from the Dutch government and incorporated the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Institute for sustainable process technology (ISPT). Multi-company collaboration brings technical expertise and a shared commitment to a low-carbon future. In addition, the collaboration aims to support the emission reductions needed to meet Shell and Dow’s goals of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.