How chemical companies can decarbonise their operations

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There are many reasons why chemical companies wish to reduce the CO2 emissions of their sites, especially from chemical and energy production.

To achieve the decarbonisation targets, chemical companies are applying a number of different strategies. These include energy conservation, increased energy efficiency and carbon capture.

Another way chemical companies can greatly reduce their emissions is to swap out fossil fuels for biomass and residues that release significantly less CO2 into the atmosphere. This is a vital element of achieving carbon neutrality. When the fuel switch is combined with effective CO2 capture, their operations can even become carbon negative.

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Why use biomass and residues?

In addition to the decarbonisation aspect, the chemical industry should have ample motivation to switch fuels. The current global energy crisis and volatile fuel prices make it clear that the transition towards biomass and residues is now an important economic issue in addition to an environmental one.

The graph below shows a selection of various biomasses, residues and fossil fuels:

The columns show the various fuels’ annual costs, including CO2 taxes, in millions of euros for a 100 MWth boiler with 8,000 operational hours per year.

The overall picture is clear: using waste wood or wood residues instead of natural gas can save upwards of €130 million per year.

For chemical companies that have the power and steam production infrastructure in place, the payback time will be less than ONE year when changing a gas turbine or a gas-fired boiler to a biomass- and residue-fired boiler.

The electricity price in Central Europe has been at a level of 150–450 EUR/MWh since the summer of 2021 and with the undersupply of natural gas, it is likely to stay at this level for some time.

All in all, it will be a good business and environmental case to switch from fossil fuels to biomass and residues as well as having a highly efficient cogeneration plant producing the needed on-site steam, hot water, and electricity.