Covestro Starts Energy-Saving Chlorine Plant in Spain

20.02.2023 - German engineering plastics producer Covestro has started up a new €200 million chlorine plant at its Tarragona complex in Spain. The company said the new facility will strengthen its 220,000 t/y European network for the key rigid-polyurethane feedstock MDI while reducing energy consumption by up to 25%.

Covestro said the energy savings are thanks to the “highly innovative and energy efficient” oxygen depolarized cathode (ODP) technology it developed together with German engineering group Thyssenkrupp Nucera. This gets by with a lower voltage compared with traditional chlor-alkali electrolysis still commonly used in the industry.

As another sustainability bonus, the former Bayer MaterialScience said that based on the energy mix in use at the start of construction planning in 2018, employing the technology at the Spanish site should save as much as 22,000 t/y of CO2 emissions annually, compared with existing processes. This saving is also expected to contribute to Covestro’s goal of being operationally climate-neutral by 2035.

The Tarragona MDI plant having its own, independent supply of chlorine not only enhances its efficiency and competitiveness but also promotes the economic and social development of the area by generating both direct and indirect new jobs, said Andrea Firenze, Covestro’s general manager for Spain.

With the investment in chlorine, Tarragona plans to add 50 new jobs and ensure an efficient, sustainable and independent supply of both chlorine and caustic soda to the Spanish site.

For CEO Markus Steilemann, “the successful start-up of the new plant is good news, both economically and ecologically, for Covestro as well as for our site in Tarragona.” He added that “the plant demonstrates how new technologies enable us to advance our vision the circular economy and further reduce resource consumption.”

One of the major players, Covestro estimates the global MDI market to have a current production volume of around 7.5 million t/y, and Steilemann said it can look forward to long-term growth.

As the outlook for the European and chemical industry appeared to darken late last year, Steilemann, who currently serves as president of the German industry association VCI, announced, however, that the company was again delaying plans for a world scale MDI plant planned for either in the US or China while promising an update when the economic outlook brightens. A decision on where to build the 500,000 t/y facility had still not been taken.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist