Former Communications Lead Climate-KIC Germany and EnCO2re
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CO2 instead of crude oil – Covestro is now using carbon dioxide to produce plastics on an industrial scale with an annual production capacity of 5,000 metric tons. In mid June, the company opened a production plant for an innovative foam component made with 20 percent CO2 at its Dormagen site near Cologne, Germany. The new process saves a proportional amount of the traditional oil-based raw material, thus making a contribution to sustainability.
In Dormagen, Covestro is now using carbon from CO2 to manufacture a new type of polyol. These are core building blocks for polyurethane foam – a versatile material that is used in many industries around the world and that we encounter throughout our daily lives. The carbon dioxide is chemically bound into the material.
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 petrochemical raw materials, i.e. crude oil.
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. Thanks to the catalyst and the considerable energy contained in the remaining content of petrochemical raw materials, no additional energy needs to be expended to make the low-reactivity CO2 react.
“The opening of the Dormagen plant takes us from the theoretical potential to reality. And that is a good sign for the future of CO2 re-use,” says Ted Grozier, Programme Manager of EnCO2re, the Climate-KIC flagship programme focused on the topic. “By producing this environmentally preferable material, Covestro is giving its customers a new way to reduce the footprint of their products. Through our jointly sponsored programme, EnCO2re, we encourage other key players in the value chain to adopt CO2 as a circular economy resource and explore ways to use CO2-based materials as an alternative to fossil feedstocks.”
Production at Dormagen is the product of years of collaboration between Covestro and its research partners. EnCO2re embraces this type of partnership. “Cooperation between industry and science, in addition to active dialogue with society and policymakers, is essential to commercializing breakthrough technologies. In general, it’s clear that industry can and will be part of the solution to climate change,” said Christoph Sievering, Chair of the EnCO2re Steering Committee and Head of Energy Strategy of Covestro.