Electrification of Steam Cracker Furnaces – Technology Demonstration and the Route to Commercialization | AIChE

Electrification of Steam Cracker Furnaces – Technology Demonstration and the Route to Commercialization


Conference Presentation

Conference Type

AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety

Presentation Date

March 13, 2023


27 minutes

Skill Level




To keep up with the targets of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and limit global warming to preferably below 1.5 degrees, all energy- and emission-intensive industries must undergo a profound and fast transformation of their production assets and applied technologies. Olefin technology licensors and operating companies are thus urged to provide viable solutions in the form of carbon emission neutral plants, which ensure the required production in a safe, reliable, and sustainable manner.

Cracking furnaces are the largest greenhouse gas emission source in steam cracker plants and cause a significant share of the overall emissions in the petrochemical industry. The paper and associated presentation focusses on the electrification of cracking furnaces. By converting the heat generation from fossil fuel firing to electric heating using renewable power, flue gas emissions from the cracking furnaces are completely avoided. The use of electric energy at such high-power duties in such a high-temperature chemical process brings a disruptive innovation to the industry. The electric cracking furnace is a key enabler to reduce the total CO2 emissions from steam cracker plants by more than 90% and hence to achieve the sustainability targets of the petrochemical industry.

In 2021, the consortium partners BASF, SABIC and LINDE announced a collaboration to jointly develop electric cracking furnaces. In 2022, construction works began for a multi-megawatt demonstration plant at BASF in Ludwigshafen (Germany), targeting the demonstration of two different electric heating technologies at industrial scale. With start-up scheduled for 2023, the two additional furnaces will be completely integrated into the commercial production of ethylene and other high value chemicals. The commercialization of electric furnaces is planned by the end of 2024.

The conference contribution provides information on the two electric heating technologies developed and now ready for demonstration. Characteristics of the demonstration plant will be presented, underlining that its operation will be highly representative for the operation of future commercial-size electric furnaces.

Finally, an outlook on integration scenarios of commercial-size electric furnaces into grassroot and existing plants is given. It shows the potential and benefits of considering electric furnaces timely in the development of long-term sustainability roadmaps of olefin production sites.


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