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09 Oct 2019, 10:44
Freja Eriksen

Germany's chemical industry can become nearly greenhouse gas neutral by 2050 – study

Clean Energy Wire

It is possible for the German chemical industry - one of the country's most energy intensive sectors - to turn largely greenhouse gas neutral by 2050, shows a study commissioned by the German chemical industry association VCI. Achieving this would require additional investments of around 45 billion euros and increase the electricity demand of the industry to 628 terawatt hours (TWh) annually from the mid-2030s – more than Germany's total power production in 2018. The German chemical industry was, however, "committed to the societal task of greenhouse gas neutrality”, said Wolfgang Große Entrup, head of VCI. "We want to successfully make this journey by 2050," he added.
The VCI study outlined how the chemical industry would, in one scenario, be able to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 61 percent by 2050 compared to 2020 through higher energy efficiency, the planned phase-out of coal-fired power generation in Germany, and investing heavily in new process technologies in basic chemistry. In this scenario, however, the industry alone would require an annual amount of electricity corresponding to Germany's renewable power production in 2018 as well as 15 billion euros of additional investments. To achieve close to 100 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the industry should follow much the same strategy, but would need to introduce new process technologies regardless of whether they are economically viable, the study showed. CO2-free processes for basic chemical production already exist today, but would have to be developed and scaled up, VCI's study concluded. Although close-to climate neutrality by 2050 was theoretically possible, "the prerequisites must be right”, said Klaus Schäfer of VCI. "Companies can only push ahead with the transformation to zero emissions if they remain competitive in every phase and can dispose of large quantities of renewable electricity at low costs," he said.

Industry is Germany's second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions - trailing the energy sector – and CO2 output has not fallen over the last ten years. Around half of those emissions are caused by companies making steel, cement and chemicals. The majority of these emissions cannot be cut with conventional methods, because they are not directly related to the use of fossil energies, but are released during the chemical or physical transformation of materials (so-called process emissions). The world's largest chemicals maker, German BASF, has presented a low-carbon strategy, aiming to switch the energy supply for core parts of production from gas to renewable electricity.

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