Our Carbon Management
In 2018, we started a global Carbon Management that will help us reach our new climate target 2030 and enable further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the long term.
Since 1990 we have halved our greenhouse gas emissions – while doubling our production. However, further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will be increasingly difficult due to the high degree of efficiency that we have now reached with our processes. Nevertheless, we do not want to serve the globally growing demand for chemical products at the cost of the climate. We have therefore set ourselves the target of CO2-neutral growth until 2030*, which means growth without an overall increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to enable further greenhouse gas savings in the chemical industry in the long term, completely new technologies are needed, which we are already starting to look into.
* Our goal includes other greenhouse gases converted to CO2 equivalents. For further information, see Annual Report.
The Carbon Management Research & Development Program focuses on the base chemicals: These are responsible for 70% of the GHG emissions of the chemical industry but are an indispensable starting point for the value chain and all our innovation. By electrification and new processes, base chemicals could be produced almost GHG emission free. Currently around 100 employees are involved in the R&D program.
A core element is methane pyrolysis, in which emission-free hydrogen is produced from (fossil) methane. Compared with water electrolysis, methane pyrolysis can produce the same amount of hydrogen with only one-fifth of the energy needed in addition to the energy content of the methane.
We plan to continue producing other relevant petrochemical basic products from fossil naphtha. To do this, the steam cracker needed will be operated using the world’s first electric heating concept. Steam cracker require a temperature of 850°C to split crude petroleum (naphtha) for further processing. If this temperature could be reached with electricity from renewable sources, instead of the currently used natural gas, a reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 90% would be possible.
On the basis of innovative catalyst systems also a CO2-free synthesis pathway for olefins, the largest intermediate in the chemical industry in terms of volume, is being developed.
In addition to the technical feasibility, the biggest challenge of these new technologies is the increasing need for electricity – approximately three times more than is required today in the case of our biggest Verbund site in Ludwigshafen. This electricity should come from renewable sources in order to make the targeted emission reduction fully possible. The viability of such new technologies is closely linked to the question of whether a reliable supply of electricity from renewable sources is available and at what price.
Whether or not low-carbon technologies can be implemented therefore also depends on the political framework. Industries such as the chemical industry, which are facing international competition, cannot pass on additional costs caused by low-carbon technologies to their customers. Globally – or at least at the G20 level – comparable carbon pricing would be the best solution to advance climate-friendly and internationally competitive chemical production.