Green chemicals at work for the green transformation
Turning down the heating, using local transport, installing photovoltaics on the roof – we are now more conscious of measures to save energy and CO2 than ever before. With green technologies and green chemicals, companies can make a significant difference in the coming years and drive forward the energy transition. At thyssenkrupp Uhde, Christian Renk works on promoting the green transformation every day. Here, he provides an insight into how the company is already positioning itself for a more sustainable future with green ammonia and methanol.
For Renk, sustainability is not a short-term trend but a real affair of the heart: "The summer of 2022 and the current situation in Europe have shown us all that we have to take the issue of sustainability and green transformation seriously - both in our private lives and in industry." That is why the expert has set himself the goal of living thyssenkrupp Uhde's Purpose Statement "We create a livable planet" and not just hanging it on the wall.
From fertilizer to driver of the green transformation
Working in the Fertilizer and Methanol division of thyssenkrupp's plant engineering business, Renk recognized early on that green chemicals, such as green ammonia and green methanol, can be more than just feedstocks for fertilizers.
Now, he is responsible for developing and refining processes and technologies to promote the green transformation. "My area of responsibility covers the entire process chain, from developing the initial idea based on market requirements and handing it over to process engineering, through to sales and market launch," explains Renk.
In addition to technical and business development, the chemical engineer's daily tasks also include securing IP and keeping within the development budget. "My working day is very diverse and varied, and equally challenging," says Christian Renk. Now, he is particularly excited about his changed role within the company: "Being able to help actively shape the green transformation motivates me each and every day."
Green chemicals for a sustainable industry
But where do you start when it comes to making a company or even entire industries more sustainable? thyssenkrupp Uhde is taking two approaches: One is through serving market demand, and the other is through a push to develop green technologies, such as industrial applications of green ammonia and green methanol. "A good sense of what will be relevant in the next few years or decades is essential here," explains Christian Renk. "We started developing our EnviNOx process, for example, more than 20 years ago, and we've now sold dozens of units." This technology for eliminating climate-damaging nitrogen oxides has already saved around 200 million tons of CO2 at plants where the technology has been installed by thyssenkrupp Uhde and it is a good example of how companies can contribute to the green transformation.
“And in general, thyssenkrupp Uhde is well positioned in terms of green technologies,” says Renk. "We have world-leading gas purification plants in our portfolio and our technologies are becoming increasingly energy efficient." A particular focus is currently on the development of plants and processes for the green transformation, i.e., for switching from fossil fuels to renewable energies and feedstocks such as green chemicals.
"This will initially be done through "blue" plants, which capture, store, or use CO2. "Green" technologies, such as green ammonia or methanol, which do not use fossil feedstocks at all, will then enable the final transition to a more sustainable industry," the expert added. His department alone is currently working on 30-40 green energy feasibility studies. Renk's personal goal: "To convince customers of our green technologies and make our plants and products world leaders."
When the chemistry is right: Methanol and ammonia for the energy transition
And the chances for this are not bad at all. The market for green chemicals is booming and will continue to grow in the future. Last year, Christian Renk and his team won a major contract for 3,500 metric tons per day of blue ammonia. But it is especially green ammonia that will experience enormous demand as an energy carrier and transport medium for green hydrogen in the coming years.
Coupled with this, Renk sees a great need for action, above all in politics. "General regulations, subsidies and regulated, global CO2 trading are needed to motivate the market and establish green energy sources. We can only do our technical homework and ensure all levels - political and public – are informed. Although regulatory measures are becoming increasingly important, they must be aligned internationally and not become an obstacle. After all, our plants and the goods they produce are traded worldwide," Renk explains.
Starting a sustainable career
Even at school, Christian Renk liked physics and math and eventually decided to study process engineering/chemical engineering. What is special about his job? For the engineer, there is no doubt: The fact that with thyssenkrupp Uhde's green technologies, he can play a direct role in the green transformation of industry - and do so on a large scale.
The expert advises career starters to always keep up to date with sustainability trends. "The Internet offers enough information about the many green technologies that are currently emerging. Look at what interests you and then find the right career to go with it - there are plenty of exciting options at thyssenkrupp Uhde," says Renk, adding in conclusion, "Keep your eyes open. Our world is constantly changing." More insights into sustainable activities at thyssenkrupp and our technologies for green transformation can be found in our stories.