According to this new report, there are already more than 160,000 tonnes of CO2-based polymers on the market.
Despite the developments in this area over the past few years, the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) with the help of renewable energies is for many still a novelty. Currently, most CO2 utilisation studies and investments are focused primarily on fuels, ignoring the potential of CO2 as a renewable and sustainable carbon feedstock for the chemical industry of the future. The organic chemical and polymer production industry cannot decarbonise, for the simple reason that carbon is the key molecule in this area – given this constraint, a renewable alternative to fossil feedstocks is needed. A large number of high-value chemicals and especially polymers can be produced from CO2 in different ways – from direct chemical or biochemical synthesis as well as from indirect use of CO2-based intermediates and building blocks.
In March 2018, nova-Institute published the first worldwide technology study on this topic: “Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a chemical feedstock for polymers – technologies, polymers, developers and producers” which has now been updated comprehensively. The study examines which polymers can be produced from CO2 and provides an overview of the polymers that have already been developed, produced and marketed and by which companies.
The new “Trend Report on Carbon Dioxide-based Polymers – Technologies, Polymers, and Producers” highlights the various opportunities to produce building blocks and polymers based on CO2 via different pathways: Chemical catalytic processes are used to produce chemicals such as aromatic phosgene-free polycarbonates (PC) or aliphatic polycarbonates (APC) like polypropylene carbonate (PPC), polyethylene carbonate (PEC), polylimonene carbonate (PLimC) and polyurethanes (PUR) that are synthesised with CO2-based polyols. Biotechnological approaches – fermentation of CO2 or CO2-rich syngas (generally containing carbon monoxide (CO), CO2 and hydrogen (H2)) via microorganisms like bacteria, algae and cyanobacteria – lead to building blocks such as lactic acid or succinic acid, from which polymers like polylactic acid (PLA) or polybutylene succinate (PBS) can be made. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are polymers which can be directly derived by fermentation of CO2 without any intermediate building blocks. Electrochemical pathways, for example to monoethylene glycol (MEG), which is used for the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are also described in the report. Additionally, the use of CO2-based methanol as a feedstock is an alternative route to produce olefins via an already established process, the “Methanol to Olefin (MTO)” process. Also, a huge potential lies in the so-called “Blue Crude” oil substitute that can be produced via a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis from syngas and directly substitute crude oil in a refinery for the production of conventional fuels, chemicals and polymers as drop-ins based on a renewable carbon feedstock.
The first pilot demonstration and commercial production plants have already been installed that use CO2 either directly as a building block for polymers or indirectly, in combination with other, non-CO2-derived monomers to obtain a large array of plastics with tailor-made properties. The report lists at least 30 companies from Asia, Europe and North America who are already working on a large number of CO2-based polymers and plastics – leading to a total of more than 160,000 tonnes of CO2-based polymers already on the market.
The updated report “Carbon dioxide (CO2) as chemical feedstock for polymers – technologies, polymers, developers and producers” was written by Achim Raschka, Pia Skoczinski, Jan Ravenstijn and Michael Carus.
The report is available for 1,000 € at http://www.bio-based.eu/reports. A preview of the entire report can be downloaded at http://bio-based.eu/download/?did=166097&file=0.