Called Carbon4PUR, the EU-funded project has attracted 14 partners from seven countries with the goal of reducing the consumption of crude-oil-based raw materials in the polymer industry.
More particularly, the project aims to use mixtures of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide generated during steel production, to produce polyol feedstock for polyurethane-based materials and coatings.
“Waste gas mixtures from the steel industry can provide carbon for a chemical processes and ultimately be used to produce insulation materials and coatings,” explained Dr. Markus Steilemann, Covestro board member responsible for innovation, marketing and sales.
“This helps us to broaden our resource base and to reduce the climate footprint for the entire value chain
The EU is supporting Carbon4PUR under the auspices of SPIRE, a European public-private partnership dedicated to innovation in resource and energy efficiency enabled by the process industries. About €8 million will be provided for the project over three years, with the industrial partners set to leverage this funding with further investments.
The process being developed eliminates the resource-intensive step of separating the waste gas into its different components, according to Covestro. Instead, it said, the gas mixture will be subjected to “a chemo-catalytic process and converted directly into building blocks and intermediates for polyurethanes. This can reduce its carbon footprint by 20-60%.”
Covestro went on to notes that “ideal starting conditions” for the industrial pilot project exist: in the southern French town of Fos-sur-Mer, where an ArcelorMittal steel factory and a Covestro production facility are close neighbours.
The gas-recovery project consortium includes academic and institutional partners such as RWTH Aachen University, TU Berlin, Dechema, Imperial College London, the universities of Gent and Leiden, the French Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives, South Pole Carbon Asset Management, Grand Port Maritime de Marseille and PNO Innovatieadvies.
From its base in southern France, Covestro said it could deliver its innovative intermediate products to additional industrial partners, such as Recticel, a Belgium-based polyurethane foam manufacturer, and Megara Resins, a Greek supplier to the coatings industry.
Last year, Covestro began using carbon dioxide to produce a precursor for soft polyurethane foam, which is designed for use in upholstered furniture and mattresses. Meanwhile, the company is researching additional areas of application for CO2-based raw materials.