13 Mar 2024, 13:39
Benjamin Wehrmann

A dozen chemical plants account for three percent of Germany's national emissions - analysis

Clean Energy Wire

The twelve largest chemicals production sites in Germany caused around 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2022, roughly three percent of the country’s entire annual greenhouse gas output, an analysis by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) has found. Combined-heat-and-power installations, which are usually gas-powered, were responsible for the largest share of emissions of the sample with about 40 percent, followed by steamcracker plants for chemicals production with 24 percent, and ammonia production plants with 14 percent. “Generally speaking, the production of basic materials causes high emissions, while further processing is only responsible for comparatively low emissions,” the institute said. Germany’s largest chemicals production site, the BASF plant in Ludwigshafen, emitted nearly six million tonnes of CO2 in 2022.

Switching to renewable power holds enormous potential for reducing the production sites’ carbon footprint, and could be used in combined-heat-and-power installations or to produce green hydrogen to replace natural gas, the institute said. “Many processes in the chemicals industry are still designed in a way that makes them constantly use power and become baseload consumers,” the Öko-Insitut said. However, switching to a renewables-based system means that demand must be better adapted to the supply of wind and solar power. Economic incentives have to be set in the right way to achieve this, researcher Hauke Hermann argued. “Flexible power use must no longer be disadvantaged through high demand charges,” he said. Viviane Raddatz, of environmental NGO WWF, which had commissioned the analysis, said the German chemicals industry remained too dependent on fossil fuels. “Especially the high dependence on natural gas has led to challenges due to the increased costs brought about by the energy crisis,” she said. However, Germany could remain a competitive and attractive location for the industry if the right measures to transform the energy supply are taken, Raddatz argued.

Earlier this week, Germany launched the first auction of a novel subsidy system that supports energy-intensive industries, such as paper, steel, cement, and chemicals production, to switch to more climate-friendly production processes. The "climate contract" subsidy scheme is ready to disburse funding in the double-digit billion euro range over the next years to transform papeby compensating the price difference compared to conventional fossil fuel-based procedures.

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