Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, it has been common knowledge that the chemical industry requires very large amounts of energy.

The vehement protests by representatives of the third-largest industrial sector are likely to have played a major role in preventing a complete gas embargo against Russia.

The warning that entire supply chains would collapse without chemical precursors did not fail to have an impact in Berlin.

Bernd Freytag

Business correspondent Rhein-Neckar-Saar based in Mainz.

  • Follow I follow

However, the important question beyond the war has still not been answered: how the chemical industry intends to secure its energy requirements in the long term.

At the Schwarzheide site in Lausitz, BASF wants to show how this could work.

The plant, one of two for battery chemicals in Europe, is to become a "beacon for the energy transition in the chemical industry".

The chemical industry will need gas as a raw material in the long term.

However, the companies need the far greater part of the gas, around two-thirds, to generate heat, electricity and steam.

In the long term, this gas is to be replaced by renewable energy, and that is a problem.

Because the old "production model", according to which large locations produce their own energy, no longer applies.

BASF operates three gas-fired power plants at its headquarters and once even had plans for its own nuclear power plant.

For many chemical parks, however, "conventional" energy cannot be replaced locally by wind turbines, solar systems or hydroelectric power plants.

The electricity for Ludwigshafen should therefore come from large offshore wind farms in the future, although transport is still an open question today.

Solar park with 52,000 photovoltaic modules

The group wants to demonstrate in Schwarzheide that the conversion can work.

Thanks to the large areas, the plant should become a showcase for the energy transition.

After reunification, BASF took over the “VEB synthesis plant in Schwarzheide” from the trustee.

With 2000 employees, it is the second largest location in Germany.

In addition to a plant in Finland, it is also to become the center for the production of battery chemicals in Europe.

The smallest possible CO2 footprint in production is important for this.

In order to make the location "greener", the group has now put a 24-hectare solar park into operation after a construction period of six months, with 52,000 photovoltaic modules and an expected electricity production of 25 gigawatt hours per year.

This should cover 10 percent of today's electricity requirements.

The investment of 13 million euros, together with the energy supplier EnviaM, is small.

However, BASF only sees the park as a first step.

In the next, the group wants to test stationary battery storage, and the share of renewables in gas consumption is to be expanded.

The plant in Schwarzheide also has an advantage from the old energy world: if there is actually a shortage of gas, BASF can, unlike in Ludwigshafen, generate the entire electricity and steam requirement there at short notice with heating oil.