Dow Stade: Making the chemicals industry carbon-neutral

Dow Stade

The Stade facility banks on green hydrogen and green methanol

The chemical park in Stade in the Hamburg metropolitan region is Germany's largest electricity consumer after Deutsche Bahn. The company wants to become a climate-neutral site - and has its sights set on green hydrogen and green methanol, among other things.

The challenge

As part of the Green MeOH project, CO2 is filtered out of the emissions from the gas-fired power plant in Stade and converted into methanol by adding hydrogen. The objective is to produce 200,000 metric tons of methanol per year, which will be used in other chemical processes as well as in shipping traffic and heavy-duty transport. For this purpose, green hydrogen will be increasingly produced at the Stade location.

The solution

The aim of the Green MeOH regulatory sandbox, which is on the shortlist for funding from the German government, is to transform CO2 from a pollutant into a raw material by converting it into green methanol. Methanol is used in many applications, e.g. in fuel additives, plastics, glues and cleaning agents. But it is also gaining significance as a renewable energy source, for example in fuel cells or for the production of biodiesel. Compared to hydrogen, methanol is easier to transport, making it ideal for use in heavy-duty transport or the propulsion of ships.

The green hydrogen required for methanol production - meaning generated from renewable energy sources - will also be produced on-site in Stade. The potential at the plant is huge: It already produces around 50,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year in Europe's largest electrolyzer. Converted into electricity, this would correspond to around 300 megawatts of electrical power. By way of comparison: The total electricity consumed by the city of Stade in a year is equivalent to just 2,600 metric tons of hydrogen. Theoretically, the hydrogen Dow generates annually could supply the city with energy for more than 19 years.

However, the issue is that up to now this hydrogen is gray hydrogen, which is not produced in a climate-neutral way. In order to achieve the climate targets set for the plant, the power supply must be converted to renewable energies - an ambitious task given the quantities required. In the next three to four years, the goal is for 20 percent of the electricity consumed to be green. In the medium term, the entire plant will be supplied with green electricity, for example from offshore wind energy in the North Sea.

In addition, the U.S. parent company has committed to further reducing its annual net CO2 emissions and to ensuring completely climate-neutral production at its 106 facilities in 31 countries by 2050. At least in Stade, which is part of the Hamburg metropolitan region, the conditions for this are ideal: Dow mines salt in Harsefeld-Ohrensen, and the resulting caverns offer ample storage space. Already today, they are used for the temporary storage of gas but are also suitable for hydrogen. In this way, weather-related bottlenecks in wind or solar energy can be compensated for.

Great potential

The Green MeOH project is not only the first downstream process of its kind from a gas-fired power plant but also 10 times larger than any comparable facility currently in operation or in planning anywhere in the world. Moreover, the switch to green hydrogen can be a decisive step on the way to decarbonizing the chemical industry.

As of September 2021

1. October 2021
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