Business Update: November 2022 | AIChE

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Business Update: November 2022

Business Update

The first electric cracker is being built

Chemical companies BASF and SABIC, and industrial gases company Linde, started construction of their demonstration-scale electric steam cracker.

The background you need. Steam crackers break hydrocarbons into the reactive molecules (olefins and aromatics) that are the foundation of the petrochemicals industry. It’s an extremely energy-intensive process that relies on heat produced by the combustion of natural gas. Companies are looking to electrify their cracking furnaces in an effort to reduce the emissions associated with that heat production.

Catching you up. Electric cracking is not a new idea, but it wasn’t until 2020 that its development started to heat up. These three companies are not the only ones innovating in this space — Dow and Shell are also working together to develop their own electric cracking process.

Looking forward. BASF, SABIC, and Linde will be testing out two different cracking concepts: the first applies an electric current directly to the process tubes of the reactor, and the second indirectly heats those process tubes with electrically powered heating elements. The results from this 6-MW cracker might be enough to justify constructing a full-scale unit in a few years...

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