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Transforming Chemical Production for a Net Zero Future

Transforming Chemical Production for a Net Zero Future

Chemical laboratory technician Oliver Secosan controls BASF’s plant for synthesis gas direct conversion

Thomas Birk, Managing Director

Thomas Birk, Managing Director | BASF

3 min read Partner content

Building a sustainable future requires us to break new ground. Chemical production processes are still too intensive in terms of fossil energy and CO2 emissions. But chemicals are the building blocks for just about everything we use from mobile phones to shower gel. They are also vital for the new technologies we will need to achieve net zero, from EV batteries to hydrogen electrolysers.

At BASF, we are already fundamentally reinventing the way chemicals are produced and the role chemistry can play in creating a truly sustainable world.

We have made an ambitious commitment. By 2030, we will reduce our global CO2 missions by one quarter compared with 2018, a goal which represents a reduction of approximately 60 percent compared to 1990 levels. It will mean that BASF has to take 11 million tons of CO2 out of its production processes by 2030 – that’s about as much as the annual emissions of a city like Prague.

This cannot be achieved simply nor in isolation.

To massively reduce our carbon footprint along our value chain we have started by focusing on where we can have a direct influence, our own production and energy supply.

We are expanding our sustainable product range, developing new products that help our customers achieve their sustainability goals. Together with Lufthansa Technik, for example, we have developed an innovative surface technology for aeroplanes, which lowers wind resistance, reducing fuel consumption and therefore CO2 emissions. 

We are taking energy supply into our own hands. We have partnered with energy company Vattenfall and with Allianz to build the world’s largest wind farm in the North Sea, which when fully operational in 2023, will generate a total of 1.5 gigawatts of renewable electricity.

We are contributing to a circular economy by rethinking raw materials. Our chemical recycling project uses plastic waste to manufacture virgin-quality products.

We plan to invest up to €4 billion to bring down our CO2 emissions by 2030. This will require entrepreneurial spirit and courage as well as progress through innovation.

But business cannot do this alone.

The role of government is critically important where markets for new technologies and processes will need to be developed. To fully realise the opportunities of the net zero transition , we need to consider what this means for bolstering our world-renowned R&D capabilities as well as the potential for onshoring manufacturing for net zero technologies and levelling up across the country.

From across BASF’s 10 operating locations in the UK, spanning from Callanish in the Outer Hebrides to Littlehampton on the south coast of England, we are working hard to reduce the CO2 emissions of our operations. As a key supplier of raw materials for most UK industries including automotive, agricultural, chemicals, construction, energy and pharmaceuticals, we are also working locally with customers to find solutions in line with a more sustainable future.

Our partnership with Imperial College, London, is an important connection between business and academia and exciting for innovation within the UK. Initially developing flow chemistry, an innovative and novel approach to chemical production, our collaboration is expanding as we work together on a range of research that includes techniques to use energy and materials more efficiently and to replace fossil fuel-based feedstocks with renewable alternatives.

Cooperation across government, business and academia will be key. BASF stands ready to support and contribute to these opportunities.

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