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CO2 Utilisation

Chemicals from the Smokestack: New Developments Turn CO2 into Raw Material

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And the chemicals giant BASF too has cast an eye on the exhaust gas. After conducting research on CO2-based Sodium acrylate within the framework of the Acer project, the group is working on the manufacture of Polypropylene carbonate (PPC) from CO2 and Propylene oxide. To facilitate the market introduction of such products, the Ludwigshafen-based group has developed new plastic formulas from PPC and Polyhydroxyl butyrate (PHB) or Poly-milk acid with partners from industry and research.

How Green is the Process?

Is the industry now climate-neutral? Not wholly. Of course, the use of CO2 will help save crude oil, but fossil-based raw materials cannot be avoided. What remains of the green industry in view of the estimated 70 million tons of CO2, which the German chemicals industry blows into the atmosphere year after year through the chimney?

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Initial calculations of the RWTH sound optimistic: Over the entire life cycle, the Dream Production would consume less energy than the petrochemical process, say the researchers. The attempted 5000 tonnes per annum are not enormous by itself – but they certainly announce another important step on a path that is very long.

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The Dream Reaction: Fraud or Future?

The myth of the magic substance, the Dream Reaction or the Holy Grail is again the talk of the town: For Covestro’s preliminary project no attribute is too big, it seems. But environment associations criticize the process: ‘Dream Production’ would only mean a semblance of environment-friendly plastics. In reality the savings potential of CO2 is very low, and it would be better to spend 15 million Euro to promote renewable energies, grumble the environment protectionists. The battle lines appear to be clearly drawn: Here the apparently self-opinionated industry, there the politically motivated green?

Actually, even Covestro admits frankly that the new poly-oil is no CO2 reservoir. And if at all: 5000 tons are only a drop on the hot planet. Even if the chemicals industry of Europe were to switch 100% to CO2 as the source of carbon, it would reduce the emission of the climate damager only by five or six percent. In other words, all this is nothing but hot air?

It is not as simple as that: Even though it would be too much to expect the magic substance from Dormagen to save the world, the breakthrough is remarkable – researchers and developers have been working on the “impossible” reaction for decades. That it succeeded – and not just this – is also economical, is and will remain a small wonder. And a first step in a very new form of recycling management. Covestro Chief Patrick Thomas appealed during the opening of risking a new thinking – and the old friend-enemy images are hardly of any help.

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