BASF SE has announced a number of R&D projects to reduce carbon emissions as part of its new corporate strategy, which will see the company becoming CO2-neutral by 2030.
The Ludwigshafen, Germany-based company presented its research findings on new environmentally friendly processes during a Jan. 10 news conference, where Chairman and CEO Martin Brudermüller discussed the “ambitious” R&D program.
Over the past two decades, BASF has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent — but doubled its production volumes.
“Achieving another significant reduction in CO2 emissions will require entirely new technologies,” Brudermüller said.
The four programs outlined by BASF include developing an electrical heating concept for steam crackers; developing a new process technology to produce hydrogen and developing new catalysts.
As part of the program, the company is aiming to install the “world's first” electrical heating concept for steam crackers within the next five years, tapping into renewable energy resources to run its steam crackers.
Another emitting process targeted by BASF is the production of hydrogen, which releases significant volumes of CO2.
The chemical industry uses large quantities of hydrogen as a reactant, for instance in the synthesis of ammonia.
Together with its partners, BASF is developing a new process technology to produce hydrogen from “natural gas” or methane. The technology splits natural gas directly into its components: hydrogen and carbon.
The methane pyrolysis process requires comparatively little energy and if the energy comes from renewable sources, hydrogen can be produced on an industrial scale without CO2 emissions.
Another area under study is the process to produce olefins, which currently emits a considerable amount of CO2.
Here, BASF is working to significantly reduced emissions through “dry reforming” of methane. The process creates a syngas which is then transformed into olefins via an intermediate step of dimethyl ether.
BASF asserts that its researchers have achieved this through new, high-performance catalyst systems. The new-generation catalysts are being marketed in cooperation with Linde plc.
According to the company, depending on the availability of raw materials and renewable electricity, the new process could then be complementary to or an alternative to the potential electrical heating of steam crackers.
BASF is also presenting a new approach for using CO2 as a chemical feedstock. This covers the production of sodium acrylate from ethylene and CO2.
Sodium acrylate is an important starting material for superabsorbents, which are widely used in diapers and other hygiene products.
BASF invested just under 1.9 billion euros on research and development projects in 2017. The company's research pipeline includes around 3,000 projects, carried out by over 11,000 R&D employees worldwide.