Covestro Inaugurates CO2-to-Polyols Plant

22.06.2016 -

German engineering plastics producer Covestro has inaugurated its new CO2-to-polyols plant at Dormagen, Germany. The facility that cost €15 million to build will produce 5,000 t of the polyurethane precursor polyether polycarbonate polyols (PPPs) annually. Around 20% of the feedstock will come from waste gas generated in a nearby chemical plant.

As part of a project launched at Düsseldorf, Germany’s “K” plastics and rubber fair in 2010, the company over the past six years has moved from technology development (Dream Reaction) through pilot phase to the industrial scale plant called Dream Production.

Covestro, at the time still trading as Bayer Material Science, developed the CO2 conversion process together with Germany’s RWTH Aachen University and the CAT Catalytic Center. The two first-named supplied technological knowhow and the German Federal Research Ministry (BMBF) provided investment aid of €4.5 million.

The German company said the process saves a “proportional amount” of the crude oil traditionally needed to manufacture the flexible polyols used in high-end mattresses and upholstery. It claims also that the foam meets the same quality standards as conventional material produced using only petrochemical-derived raw materials.

The former Bayer sub-group regards itself as a pioneer in producing polyols from CO2, its CEO, Patrick Thomas, said at the inauguration ceremony on Jun. 17.  He said the process is environmentally friendly as it partially bypasses crude oil and consequently also saves the energy that would be needed to process the oil. Due to the catalyst used in production and the residual energy in the remaining petrochemical content, no additional energy is needed to make the CO2 react.

Earlier this year, Covestro began a new CO2-based project, which it calls Production Dreams In the new phase, focused on developing a continuous process that will support cost-effective production on an industrial scale, the company is again working again with RWTH as well as the Technical University of Berlin, to manufacture elastomers on an industrial scale. BMBF is providing funding of up to €1.5 million over the next three years as part of its Research for Sustainable Development framework program.

Jochen Norwig,who oversees the Covestro project, said some 25% of the oil used to manufacture the polyols for elastomers can now be replaced with CO2. Eventually, the company’s goal is to extend the range of plastics based on CO2 and to increase the amount of CO2 used to produce chemical precursors altogether.