German plastics giant Covestro has opened its first commercial-scale plant to produce polycarbonate polyol from carbon dioxide (CO2), at its Dormagen site, near Cologne.
The final polyols contain 20% CO2 “as much as is possible”, according to the group's chief executive Patrick Thomas.
The plant, which has an annual capacity of five kilo tonnes, uses a process which Thomas said was not just more environmentally compatible than conventional production technologies but “most importantly it helps us conserve the scarce resource petroleum and expands our resource base.”
Speaking at the opening Thomas added: “We have to change the way we look at CO2, and we will.
“Using it as an alternative source of raw materials is a solution to some of the biggest challenges of our time, [namely] finding a replacement for finite fossil resources such as oil and gas and closing material cycles.”
Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – which supported Covestro's technology financially in the research and development phase – said: “This method of using carbon dioxide as a raw material is an important step as we move toward a sustainable future.
“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.”
Thomas, who said his firm had invested €15m (£12m) in the process, thanked the external scientists who helped with the fundamental research that make the process possible: “Professor Schmachtenberg, you deserve our thanks for fruitful collaboration on the scientific level. RWTH [Aachen University] and Covestro jointly operate the CAT Catalytic Centre, a research institute in Aachen that attracts scientists from all over the world.
“The Centre's experts and our own researchers achieved the scientific breakthrough that first made the efficient use of CO2 in plastics production possible.”
The polyols are being marketed under the Cardyon brand.