BASF, SABIC and Linde Launch Electrically Heated Steam Cracking Furnace

April 17, 2024
Demonstration plant with 6 megawatts input of renewable electrical energy to test material behavior and process on an industrial scale.

On April 17, BASF, SABIC and Linde inaugurated the world’s first demonstration plant for large-scale electrically heated steam cracking furnaces. Following three years of development, engineering and construction work, regular operation of the plant will start at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. In March 2021, the three companies signed a joint agreement to develop and demonstrate solutions for electrically heated steam cracking furnaces.

Steam crackers require a significant amount of energy to break down hydrocarbons into olefins and aromatics. Typically, the reaction is conducted in furnaces using conventual fuels to reach temperatures of about 850º C (1,562 º F). The new demonstration plant will use electricity from renewable resources as its heat source, reducing CO2 emissions by at least 90% compared to conventional technologies.

The demonstration plant, which produces olefins, such as ethylene, propylene, and possibly also higher olefins from saturated hydrocarbon feedstock, is fully integrated into the existing steam crackers in Ludwigshafen. The upcoming operation will gather data and experiences about material behavior and processes under commercial operating conditions for the final development of this technology to industrial market maturity. 

In two separate demonstration furnaces, two different heating concepts will be tested. In one furnace, direct heating applies an electric current directly to the cracking coils. The second furnace’s indirect heating method uses the radiative heat of heating elements placed around the coils. The two furnaces together process around 4 tons of hydrocarbon feedstock per hour and consume 6 megawatts of renewable energy.

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