Evonik diversifies energy source at German sites to LPG, coal
Photo courtesy of Evonik Industries AG

Evonik diversifies energy source at German sites to LPG, coal

Specialty chemical company Evonik Industries AG, which is based in Essen, Germany, is diversifying its energy sources at its manufacturing sites in Germany to make it less dependent on natural gas, as fears intensify that Russia may cut off natural gas supply to Germany this coming winter.

The most significant measure is being implemented at Evonik’s largest German site in Marl. In the new gas-fired power plant, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) will be used instead of natural gas to generate energy. This does not only secure the energy supply and thus continuation of production in Marl. The natural gas volumes released are available to replenish Germany’s natural gas storage facilities. Evonik is being supported in this endeavour by bp.

LPG is a liquefied gas mainly comprising butane, unlike natural gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG), which mainly comprises methane. LPG is a by-product of Evonik’s production network for C4 derivatives (Performance Intermediates) in Marl. It can also be procured on the market. Through the integrated network with the bp refinery in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Evonik and bp can use their existing production, logistics and infrastructure to ensure an adequate supply of LPG in Marl.

“Saving gas is an important and pressing issue for us all in Germany in the present situation. Therefore, we are happy to support Evonik through collaboration between the bp location in Gelsenkirchen and Evonik’s site in Marl in order to realize the planned substitution of natural gas by LPG,” said Wolfgang Langhoff, chairman of the board of BP Europa SE.

The flexibility of being able to use both natural gas and LPG in Evonik’s new gas-fired power plant is now proving an advantage as well. The use of LPG is currently being successfully tested in close cooperation with the builder, Siemens Energy.

In addition, Evonik, which had originally planned to shut down its coal-fired power plant in Marl, now said it will continue to operate it. Germany earlier had planned to shutter all its coal plants by 2030. An emergency legislation passed in July will allow their reactivation to support electricity generation amid fears of gas shortages. Following the Russia-Ukraine war and the Russian embargo imposed by Western nations on Russia, as a countermeasure, Russia curbed its supply of cheap natural gas to Germany. In late July, Russia’s Gazprom, announced that it would further restrict the flow of natural gas to Germany and other European countries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. An EU regulation that takes effect today stipulates that EU member countries “shall use their best efforts” to reduce their natural gas consumption by at least 15% between August 2022 and March 2023, based on how much they used on average over the previous five years.

Following the change in the legal framework, Evonik will recruit the necessary personnel, invest in technical maintenance, and secure coal supplies to ensure continued operation of the coal-fired power plant in Marl beyond 2022.

“By substituting natural gas with LPG and continuing to operate the coal-fired power plant, we can completely dispense with natural gas for energy supply at our largest German site in Marl—without any significant curtailments in production,” said Christian Kullmann, chairman of Evonik’s executive board. “The energy supply at our European sites is thus largely secured, even in the event of a Russian gas stop.”

Evonik has also identified measures for the substitution of natural gas at its other German sites, such as Steinau, Essen, Krefeld, Lülsdorf and Wesseling. Here, natural gas is to be partially replaced by fuel oil. Corresponding investments have already been initiated, the company said.

Evonik procures a total of around 15 terawatt hours (TWh) of natural gas per year worldwide, most of which is used for power and steam generation. Germany accounts for a good third of this. Energy supplies to Evonik sites outside Germany, for example, in Antwerp, Belgium, are largely independent of gas supplies from Russia. In Germany, on the other hand, a loss of Russian gas supplies would seriously jeopardize chemical production.

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