Chemical production in Leverkusen has one foot in the future. The F³ project was launched to ensure that the European chemical industry remains competitive in the world market. PROCESS took a look behind the scenes.
No, the new continuous plant will not be the chemical industry’s proverbial “magic bullet”, despite the fact that a demonstration plant to produce fine chemicals, APIs and polymers will be in operation by the time the current project comes to an end. The project is expected to deliver a concept which is significantly more flexible and cost effective than the current approach, according to Dr. Sigurd Buchholz from Bayer Technology Services (BTS). We are talking here about F³ Factory, the chemical factory of the future. 25 European chemical companies and universities are working together as a consortium within the framework of this EU project which is being coordinated by BTS.
The traditional continuous and batch processing model is unable to provide the answer to the challenges which the industry will face in the future. A third production strategy is expected to be in place within four years which combines the advantages of the two existing production methods, giving the European chemical industry a crucial competitive advantage in the world marketplace. There are a number of factors which are driving the development of the new approach. A dramatic rise in energy prices, dwindling oil reserves and sophisticated markets such as the automotive and electronics industries with their dynamic product cycles are generating demand for a large and rapidly changing product portfolio. Companies need to react quickly to customer needs, and the construction of numerous integrated chemical complexes in the Middle East and Asia is generating concern that the European chemical industry may start to fall behind. The team is focusing on sustainability, speed and flexibility. and it has captured these aspects in the succinctly worded formula F³ = Flexible – Fast – Future. The EU is providing €18 million in funding for the F³ project as part of the 7th Research Programme. The consortium partners are contributing the remaining €30 million.
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