Bayer has started up a pilot plant at its Chempark in Leverkusen that utilizes carbon dioxide in the production of polyurethane. The company is trialing the new process on a technical scale, wherein a chemical precursor is produced into which carbon dioxide is incorporated and then processed into polyurethanes.
Bayer is working on the project with the energy company RWE, which supplies the carbon dioxide that's used in the process. Other project partners include RWTH Aachen University and the CAT Catalytic Center, which is run jointly by the university and Bayer. The researchers recently achieved a break-through in laboratory-scale catalysis technology that they say makes it possible to put carbon dioxide to efficient use in the process for the first time. If the testing phase goes well, the industrial production of plastics based on carbon dioxide should start in 2015.
The carbon dioxide comes from RWE's lignite power plant in Niederaussem outside Cologne. At its Coal Innovation Center there, the company operates a carbon dioxide scrubber where the product is separated from the flue gas.
At the pilot plant, which was designed, built, and run by Bayer Technology Services, kilograms of the carbon dioxide are used to produce one of polyurethane's two components. Bayer MaterialScience is testing these materials, which are used primarily to produce soft and rigid foams, at one of its existing plants.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia, together with Bayer, is supporting the CAT Catalytic Center, with additional federal funding of approximately e5 million. Including the investment of Bayer and RWE the total budget amounts to some e9 million.