Business Update: October 2022 | AIChE

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Business Update: October 2022

Business Update

Dow Chemical plans for tiny nuclear reactors

Midland-based chemical company, Dow Chemical, is partnering with X-energy to deploy a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) at one of Dow’s sites by 2030.

The context you need. Chemical manufacturing is unique because value creation is closely tied to the amount of energy required to make and separate a given molecule. For example, it takes more energy to split molecules than it does to assemble vehicles. That’s why the industry is “hard-to-abate.” You need a lot of heat to do stuff, which is typically delivered via steam, which is usually produced by the combustion of natural gas.

Okay, so nuclear power? This isn’t the first time Dow has toyed with the idea of using nuclear power at its sites. Back in 1967, Dow and the Consumers Power Company started talking about the same thing. By 1984, everyone was afraid of nuclear and the project was cancelled after flushing $4 billion down the drain.

Looking forward. Think of this nuclear option as a hedge against Dow’s development work on electric steam crackers with Shell. The question we need to be asking is what is likely to be more feasible by the time everyone’s net-zero emission goals need to be achieved...

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