Getting rid of greenhouse gases
The German chemical industry is – in terms of revenue – the fourth largest in the world and a backbone of the German economy. Accordingly, national and international attention was enormous when DECHEMA published a study in October commissioned by the VCI (Association of the German Chemical Industry) stating that the German chemical industry could become GHG-neutral by 2050.
The chemical industry has already made tremendous progress over the last decades and at least partially decoupled growth and GHG emissions. But “GHG-neutral”? That seems ambitious, to say the least.
The greenhouse-gas-neutral pathway is the most interesting scenario - of course, as it is the most ambitious, but also due to the profound technological analysis it is based on. Based on their current Technological Readiness Level (“TRL”, a TRL=9 meaning ready for industrial implementation on a large scale), different technologies have been assessed for their time to market, their effect on CO2 emissions and their cost competitiveness. From this, a timeline for their introduction has been developed.
The processes considered are those for the production of the highest-volume chemicals chlorine, ammonia, urea, methanol, ethylene, propylene and butadiene as well as BTX. They are the basis for most of the overall product portfolio of the chemical industry, and their production today accounts for 75 % of greenhouse gas emissions.
While some production processes such as the current chlorine-alkaline process are not be expected to be replaced by disruptive technologies, other chemical products may in the future rely on a completely new feedstock base, in which biomass, hydrogen and CO2 via carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) play a dominant role.
-- KATHRIN RÜBBERDT --