Carbon dioxide a substitute for petroleum in the chemical industry?

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:

The chemical industry is turning CO2 into high-performance plastics after a European joint initiative was launched. The consortium of 14 partners from seven countries, led by Covestro, plans to investigate how CO2 and other waste gases from the steel industry can be used efficiently and sustainably to produce insulating materials and coatings.

The project, sponsored by the European Commission, introduces an unprecedented cooperation extending from waste gas producers to plastics manufacturers. A possible production facility could be built in southern France, where an ArcelorMittal steel factory and a Covestro site are close neighbours.

“The numerous initiatives surrounding CO2 exploitation put this waste gas in a new light and help to expand the chemical industry’s raw materials base,” explains Dr Markus Steilemann, chief commercial officer at Covestro. “Resource efficiency is one of the driving forces behind a more sustainable future, and we want to move it forward with innovative solutions.”

Covestro has already been using carbon dioxide since last year to produce a precursor for flexible foam. It contains up to 20% CO2, which is chemically bound. This will make it possible to save the same amount of petroleum. The foam was designed specifically for use in upholstered furniture and mattresses.

At the same time, the company is researching additional areas of application for CO2-based raw materials. The use of CO2 as a raw material was made possible in the first place by a scientific breakthrough achieved by Covestro and its partners several years ago. It is hoped CO2 can be used sustainably, ecologically and economically in various applications.

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