Climate protection: Interview with Martin Brudermüller
June 3, 2019
BASF has set itself new climate protection objectives as part of its corporate strategy and announced a “Carbon Management” research program in January. Read an interview with Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors and Chief Technology Officer of BASF.
Mr. Brudermüller, let’s be honest: How seriously does BASF take climate protection?
We take it very seriously. We are already experiencing the impact of climate change today, and virtually every day. It is therefore our corporate responsibility to contribute to climate protection efforts. Let us not forget that climate protection also offers business opportunities for BASF.
In fact, the demands we face to further reduce CO2 emissions will increase on the part of society and policy-makers. And capital markets are also turning up the pressure. The new lower-emissions technologies will allow us to keep our “license to operate.” We are taking the necessary steps for this.
Yet, BASF’s strategy does not include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; instead, all it says is that the emissions should not continue to increase...
...and that is a truly ambitious goal, one that we must make every effort to achieve. Specifically for the following reasons.
First of all, BASF has already halved its total global greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to today, while doubling the production volume during the same period. The downside of this great achievement is that we have already optimized our plants and every additional improvement will be increasingly costly and elaborate.
Secondly, we want to once again grow considerably by 2030. This means that the production volume will continue to increase. Indeed, if we want to keep our greenhouse gas emissions at a constant level, we have to again significantly reduce the emissions per metric ton of sales product.
And that is not easy to do.
How will BASF achieve this?
I see two approaches we can apply to achieve our 2030 objective.
For one: Operational Excellence. We have to become even more energy-efficient when it comes to our plants and processes. In our efforts to promote this to a greater degree and support our plants along the way we will invest significantly more money in the coming years.
Secondly, we will increase the share of electricity from renewable sources in the overall amount of electricity we purchase. There is tremendous potential here as chemistry needs energy, and the biggest sources of CO2 for the chemical industry are still fossil fuels.
What part does the “Carbon Management” research program introduced in January play in BASF’s climate protection objective?
This research and development program is the third pillar in our Carbon Management strategy, which is in addition to the two other pillars I mentioned previously. Here we examine how we can take climate protection to the next level after 2030 when all other options have been exhausted. Then we will need decisive technology advancements, real “game changers” to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What is BASF's research currently focusing on?
We are developing new, low-emissions processes for our biggest CO2 sources. These primarily involve our base products such as olefins from our steamcrackers, hydrogen or methanol.
Are any specific initial results already available?
I am very pleased that I can actually report early successes: We have developed new catalyst systems – with the help of our Quriosity supercomputer, by the way – which turn CO2 and methane to syngas; in other words, a value product. So, for example, this makes it possible for the syngas plant to use CO2 emissions from steamcrackers as a raw material.
These systems are already being introduced to the market together with Linde. Furthermore, we have developed a process that enables the production of methanol without any greenhouse gases, and have applied for patent protection. These are just a few examples of what we want to achieve with our research program: We are talking about fundamentally new technologies that have the potential to revolutionize chemicals production in terms of climate protection. BASF has its sights on being a pioneer in the sector when it comes to climate protection and that is exactly what our Carbon Management program aims at.