Shell and Dow start up E-cracking furnace experimental unit

Shell and Dow have started up an experimental unit to electrically heat steam cracker furnaces at the Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This represents a key milestone 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 for retrofitting today’s gas-fired steam cracker furnaces. Data generated by the unit will be used to validate the model and allow the electrification program to advance 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 great step forward in helping to decarbonize one of the central processes of our industry, while also supporting Shell’s goal to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050. I look forward to the results of the experimental unit and to continue this vital collaboration with Dow.”

“This milestone demonstrates that low carbon emissions manufacturing technologies are within reach,” said Keith Cleason, Vice President Dow Olefins, Aromatics and Alternatives business. “The collaboration with Shell has the potential to reshape the way our industry manufactures products in future decades.”

As the energy grid becomes increasingly renewables led, using renewable electricity to heat steam cracker furnaces could become one of the routes to decarbonize the chemicals industry. E-cracking furnaces operated using renewable electricity have the potential to reduce 90% of the scope1 emissions at economically competitive costs with conventional crackers.

Last year, the program was awarded €3.5 MM (US $4.2 MM) in funding from the Dutch Government and incorporated The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT). The multi-company collaboration brings technical expertise and a common commitment to a low carbon-future. Furthermore, the collaboration aims to support emission reductions required to meet Shell and Dow’s targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

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