Electrification of the Chemical Industry

10-12-2017

VoltaChem Annual Event 2017: Energized for action

From the opening speech until the drinks and informal discussions, the VoltaChem Annual Event 2017 was buzzing with energy. The prospect of massive amounts of offshore wind power enabling electrification and decarbonization of the chemical industry had brought an unanticipated large audience to the event. Main conclusion of the event was that we have to accelerate towards implementation through the development of an industrial electrification field lab and pilot location. VoltaChem will take up this challenge in 2018.

At the border of the Nieuwe Maas and just across the Pernis and Botlek chemical plants, the Delta Hotel was a very fitting location for the event, hosted jointly with Deltalinqs and SmartPort in close collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam. Over 140 participants had registered for the day focusing on the contribution of industrial electrification to large-scale fossil decarbonization, providing ample opportunity to discuss both the latest progress in the field and the opportunities to accelerate business and technology development. As presenter Bob Wind put it, the day "is all about connections. Of industry and research. But also among the participants of today."

Importance of industrial electrification
Multiple plenary presentations from industrial stakeholders stressed the importance of industrial electrification as a key path towards decarbonization of industry, implementing technologies like Power-2-Heat, Power-2-Hydrogen and Power-2-Chemicals. Ruud Melieste, chief strategist of Port-of-Rotterdam, indicated that "The transition towards renewable and sustainable industry can be done, no question about that!" and that the North Sea “Doggersbank may be our next Saudi Arabia". Also Reinier Gerrits, Head of the Energy and Climate at the Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI), indicated electrification as an important route for cutting deep in CO2 emissions in the chemical industry, especially through hydrogen technology. And last but not least, Kees-Jan Rameau, Executive Board Member at energy company Eneco, indicated that "wind is the new gas" implying that renewable electricity will start replacing large portions of fossil energy supply in chemical processes in the next decades.

Concrete projects
After that, two VoltaChem partners gave insight in some running projects. Muhammad Zubair, Project Manager Business Development at energy company Uniper, presented a case study regarding the generation of renewable hydrogen for use a refinery processes through electrolysis. He stressed the importance of a mixed energy & chemistry business model and regulations leading to a level playing field with fossil and bio based alternatives by implementing a fair CO2 pricing mechanism achieving positive business cases. Markus Oles, Head of Innovation Strategy at ThyssenKrupp, presented the large German project Carbon2Chem that uses carbon dioxide and green hydrogen for methanol synthesis. He explained the importance of cross-sector and cross-disciplinary collaboration to reach the goals of societal challenges and profitability.

Growing electrification community
During the event VoltaChem was happy to report a growing interest of industry. This was reflected in a growing number of contributing community members, which more than doubled, and the 21 projects together with more than 38 collaboration partners. Many results of these projects were shown in the poster session and discussed in the breakouts. Furthermore, the success of technology development was reflected by 5 patent applications and first running pilot installations in all three lines. VoltaChem’s business development manager Martijn de Graaff reported how the ongoing discussion on the focus of the program led to an emphasis on the fuels, fertilizer and polyolefins sectors and how VoltaChem would like to make the next step towards implementation together with industrial front runners.

Interaction with the participants
During the event the audience was asked their opinion on several statements. It became very clear that profitable economics was considered an important role in bringing electrification of the industry further. About 60% of the participants considered this to be the major barrier. 36% percent also saw costs reduction as the major driver, equal to regulation. It became clear that, in the audience, there was a large need for piloting and demos. Furthermore, during the breakouts it was mentioned that Individual, more small scale and high value business cases, should bring the knowledge insight needed to make the high impact cases realizable at manageable costs.

Use the existing momentum to accelerate
The overall impression of the day was that the next decades will be challenging with a broad range of opportunities related to sustainability and decarbonization, but also that there is no one clear road ahead due to the diverse interests of companies and governments. In the wrap-up of the day Alice Krekt concluded that the VoltaChem event had seen a "coalition of the willing" and that the challenge now was to turn this into a "coalition of the doing". According to Krekt, "we need to talk more and share experiences" to build momentum. Michiel Jak added that the cases presented by Uniper and ThyssenKrupp were perfect examples of what can already be achieved and that we should develop and showcase more of these examples.

Next steps
An industrial electrification field lab and piloting location. From the event the VoltaChem core team concluded that piloting and showcasing real cases on high value chemicals must bring the technology forward to realize positive business cases in the future. In 2018 the program will therefore focus on further developing the most promising technologies towards pilots in industrial clusters. Another important activity will be the development of an industrial electrification field lab and piloting location in one of the leading chemical clusters together with partners from industry, academia and government.

If you are interested in participating in the development of this industrial field lab and pilot location or in participation in one of the underlying projects, please contact us! We are more than happy to discuss about your involvement.

A more detailed report about the annual event can be find here and all presentation and posters of the breakout sessions can be find on this page 

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