About the project

The objective of IMPROOF was to drastically improve the energy efficiency of the radiation section of a steam cracking furnace by at least 20%, and this in a cost-effective way, while simultaneously reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and NOx per ton ethylene produced with at least 25%. Steam cracking is the most energy-consuming process in the chemical industry and globally uses approximately 8% of the sector's total primary energy. Improving the energy efficiency has an immediate pay-out because energy cost counts for approximately 70% of the net production costs in typical ethane- or naphtha-based olefin plants.

One of the most important ways to reduce the energy input in steam cracking furnaces per ton ethylene produced is to reduce coke formation on the reactor wall of the long tubular reactors that are mounted in these furnaces. The use of either advanced coil materials, combined with 3D reactor designs, improved process control, and more uniform heat transfer increases run lengths, reducing simultaneously CO2 emissions and the lifetime of the furnaces. Application of high emissivity coatings on the external surface of the radiant coils could further improve the energy consumption. IMPROOF has demonstrated the advantage of combining all these technological innovations, with an anticipated increase of the time on stream with a factor 3.

Specifically, the strategic objectives were:

  • Energy consumption
    • High emissivity coatings emitting in the non-absorbent flue gas spectrum (reduction of 10% radiative losses compared to state of the art)
    • Enhanced heat transfer between flue gas and the process (reduction of 3% compare to state of the art) by 3D coils
    • Novel radiant coil alumina forming alloy tubes that lower the coking rate leading to a lower outside tube temperature (reduction of 3% compared to state of the art)
    • Novel integrated process design for the IMPROOF furnace (reduction of 15% of fuel consumption)
  • Operating costs
    • Increase production rates per ton olefins produced by increasing furnace combustion efficiency and by advanced process simulation (reduction of 10%)
    • Increase production rates per ton olefins produced by selectivity increase using 3D reactor technology (reduction of 5%)
    • Increase furnace availability and production rates per ton olefins produced because of reduced coke formation using advanced materials and 3D coil design (reduction of 3.5%)
  • Reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs of the furnaces by at least 15%.
    • Double refractory life, increase process tube life and decrease furnace downtime
    • OPEX: 88 % is related to feed cost, which stresses the need for advanced optimization programs
  • Reduction of NOX and CO emissions by at least 25%
    • Decrease NOX and CO emissions by considering new burner designs, and oxy-fuel combustion (reduction of 30% and more)
    • Decrease net CO2 emission by using biogas and bio-oil as fuel (reduction of 10% and more)


Project structure



“33rd Ethylene Producers Conference” – April 18-22, 2021, virtual conference

5 November 2020

The European Federation of Chemical Engineers (EFCE) Spotlight Talks

27 October 2020

Kevin Van Geem (UGENT), coordinator of IMPROOF, will give a talk for the European Federation of Chemical Engineering on 26 November (10h30-11h30) on the Electrification of the chemical industry. The exchanges will cover the benefits of applying industrial innovation practices and the many applications of electrification and process intensification in process industries. Detailed programme and free registration:  Read more

IMPROOF Workshop “32nd Ethylene Producers Conference” – Sunday 16 August 2020

12 February 2020

The IMPROOF consortium is pleased to announce the  IMPROOF workshop that will be held at Houston (USA) on Sunday 16 August 2020 online,  connected to the 2020 Spring Meeting and 16th Global Congress on Process Safety. Registration is open for all stakeholders from both industry and academia. Attendance is free of charge, but registration is required on : We will share to the registered people the link to access to the webinar later on . The link will be available until 19th august, 2020.Read more

Discover the integrated model for energy optimization of steam cracking furnace

16 December 2019

Dow is organizing an Open Day with regards to the optimization of steam cracking furnaces. Therefore we are sharing with you an invitation to visit us at an Open Day event on January 29 in Terneuzen, The Netherlands. During the event, we will feature a newly expanded portfolio of innovative studies to meet future industry requirements in terms of energy optimization and CO2 emissions. We are presenting the developments of the EU funded IMPROOF project. Experts from European Universities and leading technology developers will present their contributions towards the future ethylene furnace. The experts will be present at the event to address your questions. •                   Event opening from Jamie Cohen, Dow EMEA R&D Director •                   Keynote presentation on the Chemical Industry under the 4th Industrial Revolution, Rafael Cayuela, Dow Chief Economist •                   Overview of IMPROOF, G. Bellos and Prof. K. van Geem •                   Lectures on biofuel firing kinetics, oxy-fuel combustion, high emissivity coatings, radiant coil technology advancements and low emission furnace design will be given by IMPROOF partners from Politecnico di Milano, John Zink, Cress BV, Gent University, Schmidt and Clemens, Technip and Dow •                   Plant tour by bus •                   Event closure Register, no later than 20th December in order to attend our sessions during the event: Read more

IMPROOF Workshop – 27-28 january 2020 and DOW Open Day 29 january 2020

8 October 2019

The IMPROOF consortium is pleased to announce the two-day IMPROOF workshop that will be held on 27-28 January 2020 at the Laboratory for Chemical Technology in Ghent, Belgium. Registration is open for all stakeholders from both industry and academia. Participants can register for one or two days: Day 1: Computational Fluid Dynamics assisted Process Intensification (27 January 2020) Day 2: Novel Technologies in Steam Cracking Furnaces (28 January 2020) Attendance is free of charge, but registration is required: : eventmanager.ugent.be/improofWorkshop However, due to the limited capacity of the event, participants who register but fail to attend will be charged a no show fee of € 50 (except for valid reasons).  Read more