Covestro has announced that it has opened a production plant that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) to manufacture plastics on an industrial scale. The plant, at its Dormagen site near Cologne, Germany, produces an innovative foam component made with 20 % CO2 and helps cut the use of crude oil. The new process saves a proportional amount of the traditional oil-based raw material, thus making a contribution to sustainability Covestro noted.
The company has set up the new plant with an investment of € 15 mn (about Rs 115 crore), with annual production capacity of 5,000 metric tons. The CO2 used is a waste product from a neighbouring chemical company. Covestro said its scientists worked with experts from the CAT Catalytic Centre in Aachen to find the right catalyst that would make the chemical reaction with CO2 possible.
Covestro is using carbon from CO2 to manufacture a new type of polyol. These are core building blocks for polyurethane foam, which is a versatile material that is used in many industries, noted the company. The new CO2-based polyol has been engineered initially for flexible polyurethane foam intended for use in mattresses and upholstered furniture. In terms of quality, the foam achieves at least the same high standards as conventional material produced using only crude oil, Covestro said.
By eliminating the use of crude oil and saving the energy otherwise used to process that oil, the method is more environmentally-friendly than conventional production processes, explained Covestro. It is also working on manufacturing other plastics with carbon dioxide, in addition to flexible foam, with a vision to largely dispense with crude oil in plastics production.
Patrick Thomas, CEO, Covestro, said there needs to be a change in the way of looking at CO2. Using it as an alternative source of raw materials is a solution to some of the biggest challenges of our time, he added.
This method of using CO2 as a raw material is an important step in the move towards a sustainable future, noted Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. He said the German Federal government is promoting the use of CO2 as a raw material in order to expand the chemical industry’s raw materials basis and open new avenues to sustainability.
Prof Ernst Schmachtenberg, Rector, RWTH Aachen University, added “Making efficient use of the carbon dioxide molecule, which is normally slow to react, is a real scientific and technical challenge.” He noted that a breakthrough has been made by combining application-centric basic research with research-based industrial practices.
Earlier, Ford Motor Company has announced that it will use captured CO2 to develop foam and plastics for its vehicles. The automaker is also on the path of developing other plastic materials using captured carbon to lessen the use of fossil-fuel based plastics. Click here for more.