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Decarbonizing the Chemical Industry: Insights from World Chemical Forum 2023

Green hydrogen for ammonia production could be the solution to a cleaner chemicals industry.

The chemicals industry is both indispensable to global trade and responsible for around 925 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon emissions annually, more emissions than the entire country of India, making the importance of decarbonizing more critical than ever. 

Amidst this global challenge, the World Chemical Forum recently met in Houston, Texas, where Bloom Energy's Rick Beuttel joined a distinguished panel to explore hydrogen as a solution for decarbonizing the chemicals sector. 

Let's take a look at how hydrogen, the simplest of molecules, is positioned as a catalyst to decarbonize an industry that touches nearly every corner of society. 

Chemicals’ Carbon Footprint

As the largest industrial energy consumer, the chemicals industry is responsible for around two percent of global emissions annually, according to data from McKinsey. And among its industrial peers, the chemicals sector ranks third in terms of carbon footprint, trailing only steel and cement production. 

The chemicals industry’s emissions must decline by 2030 to be on track to meet the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. But as one of the largest energy consumers globally, the industry faces strong headwinds. 

One key subsector of chemicals, ammonia production, relies heavily on fossil fuels as feedstock, which has proven challenging to abate. Ammonia is crucial to the production of agricultural fertilizers. Given that half of global food production relies on fertilizer, according to the American Chemical Society, ammonia is vital to farmers and consumers, ensuring the world gets fed.

Hydrogen for Decarbonization

The panel brought together diverse perspectives and world leaders in hydrogen and ammonia production, who shared unique perspectives on the urgent need for decarbonization in the sector. Rick Beuttel, Head of Business Development and VP of Hydrogen at Bloom Energy joined Bob Oesterreich, VP of Global Sales, Hydrogen, at Chart Industries, Benjamin Heard, COO & President, Gulf Coast Sequestration, and Tim Cesarek, Chief Commercial Officer, at Gevo.

The conversation explored innovative technologies designed to produce clean hydrogen more efficiently by integrating the excess high-temperature energy from chemicals and refining production processes into clean hydrogen production. Hydrogen created from such processes can be further utilized to decarbonize chemicals production processes, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the chemicals industry.  Beuttel emphasized the importance of highly efficient electrolysis technology, particularly its compatibility with the high-temperature, exothermic processes involved in chemical production. Meanwhile, other panelists pointed out the different aspects of the industry, including the viability of blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced from fossil fuel processes with carbon capture) for decarbonization, the growth rate for hydrogen equipment such as tanks and liquefiers, and the opportunities in renewable and sustainable fuels

These opportunities align closely with the solid oxide Bloom Electrolyzer™, which operates at temperatures of approximately 700℃, and requires less electricity to produce the needed hydrogen.  

As the world continues to navigate ways to decarbonize the chemicals sector, Bloom Energy remains committed to providing innovative and resilient solutions for a more sustainable future.  

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