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Making Chemicals with Electricity

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Making Chemicals with Electricity

Hydrogen can be produced in electrically heated reactors, reducing CO2 emissions


5 min read
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What's inside?

More than a century after Edison, electrification is finally coming to the chemical industry.

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  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening


From the 1880s through the early part of the twentieth century, almost every aspect of manufacturing was electrified. One outlier has been the chemical industry, which has relied on fossil fuels both as feedstocks and as an energy source in many of its processes. But change will be coming. Rather than a challenge, electrification of chemical synthesis is more of an opportunity to rethink and optimize methods that have not changed much in decades. The article will engage those looking to bring in a new age of clean, precise and compact chemical production.


In order to limit CO2 emissions, chemical production will have to be redesigned to take advantage of renewable electricity sources.

Chemical production systems rely on burning fossil fuels for heating and account for one seventh of greenhouse gasses currently being produced. Converting from combustion to electrical heating can reduce CO2 emissions dramatically.

Additionally, chemical production can act as a storage method for intermittent energy sources, for example through the production of hydrogen as a fuel.

Electrical heating...

About the Authors

Kevin M. Van Geem, Vladimir V. Galvita, and Guy B. Marin are professors at the Laboratory for Chemical Technology of Ghent University in the Netherlands.

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