COVESTRO
New “Dream Production” CO2-to-polyols plant dedicated at Dormagen / Vision for the future is to dispense with petrochemical route
Covestro (Leverkusen / Germany; www.covestro.com) has started industrial production of polyether polycarbonate polyols (PPPs) from 20% carbon dioxide feedstock at its Dormagen / Germany site. The start-up of the EUR 15m so-called “Dream Production” marks the temporary climax of a six-year project announced at “K 2010” – see Plasteurope.com of 18.08.2010 – when Covestro was still known as Bayer MaterialScience (BMS). Capacity of the new plant is 5,000 t/y. The company said the process saves a “proportional amount” of the crude oil traditionally needed to produce flexible polyols, a precursor for polyurethane grades used in mattresses and upholstery. In terms of quality, it said the foam achieves at least the same high standards as conventional material produced using only petrochemical raw materials.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony, Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas said the company sees itself as a pioneer in this area. In the research phase of the project then known as “Dream Reaction” the then-BMS partnered with Germany’s RWTH Aachen University and the CAT Catalytic Center (www.catalyticcenter.rwth-aachen.de) to develop the process. The plant was designed and built by Bayer Technology Services. While in the test phase, CO2 came from a nearby German pilot gas-scrubbing facility, Covestro said the feedstock now comes from a neighbouring chemical plant. By eliminating crude oil and saving the energy otherwise used to process the oil, using CO2 is more environmentally friendly than conventional production processes, the engineering plastics producer claims. Thanks to the catalyst and the considerable energy contained in the remaining content of petrochemical raw materials, no additional energy is needed to make the CO2 react.

“Making efficient use of the carbon dioxide molecule, which is normally slow to react, is a real scientific and technical challenge. We have made a breakthrough by combining application-centric basic research with research-based industrial practices,” RWTH rector Ernst Schmachtenberg said at the plant opening. The German federal government, which provided funding of around EUR 4.5m for the research phase, is promoting the use of CO2 as a raw material to expand the chemical industry’s raw materials basis and open new avenues to sustainability, added Thomas Rachel, parliamentary state secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

BMBF is providing funding of up to EUR 1.5m over the next three years for a new project that Covestro calls “Production Dreams.” This new phase is being developed as part of the ministry’s “Research for Sustainable Development” framework programme known by its German acronym FONA. For its part, the plastics company is working with RWTH and the Technical University of Berlin on a new process that will enable the greenhouse gas to be used as a feedstock to produce elastomers on an industrial scale – see Plasteurope.com of 21.03.2016. The new process is expected to be more energy-efficient and use a much lower quantity of solvents. According to project manager Jochen Norwig, some 25% of the oil used to manufacture the PPPs for elastomers can now be replaced with CO2.

Individual batches of the material have already been produced at lab scale, and the current focus is on developing a continuous process that will support cost-effective production on an industrial scale, Covestro said. In addition to flexible foam, the company is also working on manufacturing many other plastics with carbon dioxide. Its vision “is to one day largely dispense with crude oil in plastics production.”
21.06.2016 Plasteurope.com [234342-0]
Published on 21.06.2016
Covestro: Erzeugung von Polyolen auf Kohlendioxidbasis eingeweihtGerman version of this article...

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