Whitepaper: Electrification offers chemistry a sustainable and profitable future

Electrification of the chemical industry offers opportunities to reduce its CO2 footprint and become more competitive. This is the firm opinion of various representatives from the European chemical industry and the energy sector. In the recent white paper “Empowering the chemical industry – Opportunities for electrification” different electrification routes were investigated and a detailed technical roadmap developed.

Electrification is a win-win solution
The chemical industry is facing a tough challenge. Despite a doubling of sales in the European chemical industry in the past two decades, the sector’s global market share has virtually halved. Meanwhile, the industry wants and needs to become more sustainable and reduce its CO2 emissions. A drastic improvement in energy and resource efficiency along with decarbonisation will be needed for a low-fossil future that can seriously reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time, solar and wind energy being produced in Northwest Europe results in a rising supply of renewable electricity. However this energy is not always generated where it is needed and local excesses occur, which can generate transport problems and price pressure. The chemical industry can use part of this flexible supply and in this way electrification can help to integrate the fluctuating supply of renewable energy and to optimise investments in the electricity grid..

This cooperation between the chemical industry and the energy sector is the key to boost competiveness.  Moreover, this development offers the cleantech sector, especially SMEs, an exceptional opportunity to market the technology that can contribute to the future profitability of the region.

Identifying specific opportunities
VoltaChem partners TNO and ECN have published a white paper based on desk research and interviews on the specific opportunities that electrification offers both the energy sector and the chemical industry. This whitepaper describes the status of different types of electrification such as Power-2-Heat, Power-2-Hydrogen, Power-2-Specialties and Power-2-Commodities. Power-2-Heat is focused on  the utility market with efficient generation and upgrading of heat and steam while Power-2-Hydrogen and Power-2-Chemicals relate more to the core of the chemical process whereby electrochemical conversions of existing and new resources, like biobased feedstock and CO2, create high-value chemical products and fuels.

Overcoming barriers
To retain a solid competitive position of the EU chemical industry and to fully utilize the potential of electrification, a number of barriers should be overcome. Industry representatives named the fact that many applications of electrification currently seem economically unfeasible due to the uncertainty surrounding future CO2 policy and the associated risks as a major barrier. To solve this, low cost and proven technologies should become available at industrial scales. Moreover, the current low cost of using fossil fuels is  prevents companies from choosing more costly sustainable alternatives.

To overcome these and other barriers, stakeholders will have to cooperate and balance their interests in order to get the innovation flywheel up to speed. An ecosystem should evolve in which stakeholders work together on topics like technology development, innovative business models and the assessment of economic feasibility. All stakeholders will benefit when innovation in the field of electrification takes off.

Join Voltachem and accelerate innovation
VoltaChem connects the chemical industry with the energy and cleantech sectors. Applied knowledge institutes TNO and ECN, together with industrial and academic partners, founded the Shared Innovation Program VoltaChem at the request of Topsector Chemistry to initiate and facilitate collaborative development of technology and business models in the field of electrification. The goal is to move innovation faster towards commercial implementation.
VoltaChem invites companies in the chemical industry, the energy sector and the cleantech sector to become members and to explore business opportunities and carry out projects based on VoltaChem's electrification roadmap together with stakeholders from the whole value chain.

The Electrification Whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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