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The Mass Balance Approach at BASF

The chemical industry uses a small number of raw materials to create tens of thousands of different products. The lion’s share of chemical production starts in the steam cracker, where steam is used to split or “crack” naphtha, a long-chain hydrocarbon, into smaller molecules. These molecules then serve as the building blocks for downstream production. They include, for example, hydrogen, methane, ethylene and propylene, which are mainly processed into plastics, coatings, solvents and crop protection products.

Our Sustainable Solutions

Biomass Balance



Circular Economy at BASF

The principle is therefore similar to when consumers buy “green” or “clean” electricity. Although the consumers cannot be certain that the electricity they use in their homes has come directly from renewable sources, the overall share of green energy in the grid rises in step with demand. In the chemical industry, renewable or recycled feedstock is added at the beginning of the production process and allocated to the end product. This calculation-based principle offers multiple advantages: It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fossil feedstock inputs, while the quality and properties of a product remain the same. As a result, the products can be processed exactly like conventionally produced materials. There is therefore no need to adapt formulations, plants or processes. And customers who buy mass-balanced products can use them as they would traditional products, while benefiting from the same level of quality.

Independent bodies audit the allocation (i.e., how the volumes of the sustainable raw material are mathematically assigned to the final product). However, at the moment, experts are still using different methods – also known as standards – for auditing and certification.

Driving circular economy with the mass balance approach

Ellen Mac Arthur Foundations's Circular Economy CE100 network supports - just like BASF - the mass balance approach as a possibilty to promote the circular economy in the chemical industry. The White Paper titled “Enabling a circular economy for chemicals with the mass balance approach” is a result of the co.project "Mass Balance" to which BASF sustainability experts and several other companies contributed. Co.projects are an opportunity to test ideas in a pre-competitive context to overcome common barriers and increase the pace of change. With insulation boards made of Neopor® BMB and packaging solutions made of Styropor® BMB, BASF already offers its customers products certified according to the biomass balance approach.


The mass balance approach using the biomass balance method as an example


Ellen MacArthur Foundation White Paper 2019

Download the White Paper here. 


Position Paper PlasticsEurope 

Download the position paper about "Mass balance approach to accelerate the use of renewable feedstocks in chemical processes"  here.