Germany-based high-tech polymer manufacturer Covestro is planning to scale up its bio-based aniline activities, CEO Dr. Markus Steileman explained at the company’s ‘Circular Economy’ webcast today.
Traditionally, only fossil raw materials have been used for the production of the chemical aniline, which plays an important role in the chemical industry and is used as starting material for numerous products like medicine, paints and coatings. Yet since 2017, Covestro has been developing a bio-based version of this chemical. It uses unrefined raw sugar instead of fossil fuel-based benzene to produce aniline.
Commenting on Covestro’s bio-based aniline today, Steileman (@MSteilemann ) told the webcast audience: “We have succeeded in synthesising aniline with 100% carbon from plants. Thanks to a unique combination of enzymatic catalysis and chemical catalysis, the proof of principle has been done. Now, scale up is on the way. This technology could set new standards for the entire plastics industry.”
He also mentioned that these bio-based coating components have a 30% better ecological footprint than comparable products made from fossil fuel-resources.
Covestro (@covestro) is already using renewable raw materials in a number of different products. For instance, it is currently capturing CO2 from the air and using a chemical process to convert it into new products like soft foam for mattresses, binders for professional sporting turfs and fibres for textiles.
During the webcast, Steileman also said that Covestro will aim to increasingly use biomass, end-of-life materials and carbon dioxide in order to close the carbon cycle, leave fossil fuels, reduce GHG emissions and boost the circular economy.
He said: “The plastics industry still relies heavily on crude oil. About 6-8% of the annual global consumption goes into the plastic industry. So, we must urgently switch to other sustainable carbon sources.”
BMI posed a question to Steileman during the Q&A webcast session and asked: “Do you think continued low oil prices will slow the development of bio-based chemicals/products?”
Steileman responded: “The oil price is what the oil price is. If they are high people say ‘is it still sustainable to produce products based on oil?’ and if they are low they ask ‘is it sustainable to switch to other sources?’ The key is not the price of crude oil, the key is that crude oil is a limited resource. It has heavily contributed to greenhouse gases for the last 150 years. That’s why we have to move away from those sources that are not renewable. This will be a key contributor to greenhouse gas-neutrality. We cannot continue on the path of oil consumption as we have done in the past.”