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BASF seeks “decisive” change

Aromatics, Business, Company Strategy, Environment, Olefins
By John Richardson on 07-Aug-2008

Now this is old but not widely publicised – Jurgen Hambrecht’s comments during the BASF Segment Day Chemicals event which took place in London on 8 July.

Navigate down, click on the webcast, and listen to the Q&A session after Dr Hambrecht’s presentation.

You can listen yourself, of course, but here is a summary:

The first question is about BASF’s search for alternative basic chemical production.

“We are not only looking at crackers but also syngas leading to olefins,” he says. This would give BASF the flexibility to use oil, gas, coal and natural products – i.e. biomass – as raw materials.

The chairman and CEO talks about how the Engelhard acquisition was partly driven by how an increase in catalyst capabilities would give BASF more options on basic chemicals production.

“Catalysts are crucial for the future of the industry,” says Hambrecht, adding that they will reduce energy barriers that have hithertoo blocked alternative routes to making olefins and other upstream chemicals.

And in a remarkably strong statement, he states: “This will be very substantial, it will be decisive.”

A lot can happen between R&D and commercialisation, but should we read into this that BASF is set to make a breakthrough that will be challenge the dominance of the Middle East in feedstocks?

What’s the timescale? “Certainly five years out,” says Hambrecht.

A blink of an eye in the great scheme of this things.

But what will happen if the oil price collapses to this research project and others like it?