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Turning industrial waste gases (mixed CO/CO2 streams) into intermediates for polyurethane plastics for rigid foams/building insulation and coatings

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Carbon4PUR (Turning industrial waste gases (mixed CO/CO2 streams) into intermediates for polyurethane plastics for rigid foams/building insulation and coatings)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

The EU process industry needs to become less dependent of fossils as source of carbon, and – at the same time – to reduce the greenhouse effect. The project Carbon4PUR tackles the two challenges at the same time: CO/CO2-rich waste gas streams, e.g. from the steel industry, shall serve as potentially interesting alternative carbon-resources for the chemical industry. In Carbon4PUR, we aim to transform steel mill waste gas streams into higher value intermediates for more sustainable polyurethane applications. Both the multidisciplinary consortium and the work are organized along the full value chain starting with the provision and conditioning of industrial emissions from a steel to a chemical company in line with the concept of industrial symbiosis. Carbon4PUR targets on rigid foams for building insulation and polyurethane dispersion resins for wood coatings for market-oriented consumer products.
Within the first 18 months, two process concepts were developed and tested to remove unwanted impurities and condition the feed gas for the chemical process: a simple catalytic process, and a more complex chemical looping process. The catalytic process converts the unwanted impurities to molecules that are easily removed. By optimizing the selectivity of the catalytic process, the impurities can be removed to the desired level with a minimal loss in CO/CO2. The chemical looping process, while more complex, is more robust and can tolerate a wide range of feed impurities. It moreover uses the impurities to enhance the quality of the CO/CO2-stream for the chemical industry. In the next 18 months, the catalytic gas treatment process will be further optimized for realistic waste gas streams; the chemical looping processes will be further optimized to maximize the quality of the produced CO/CO2-rich stream and an additional third, novel gas treatment process will be further developed.
Potential catalyst candidates for the formation of reactive building blocks from CO and CO2 were investigated in the first 18 months. Experimental equipment setup was up scaled from a few milliliter scale to 100-milliliter scale. The new setup allows investigating the influence of pressure, temperature and gas mixtures on the reaction system, in order to optimize the overall yield. Parallel, polymerization routes to form polyols from the reactive building blocks were investigated. Process concepts were developed to transfer the chemistry into an economic and ecological industrial process.
Polyol sampling of the most promising strategies was developed from g to kg scale. First screenings and/or preliminary trials with the CO/CO2-based polyols have been initiated in the targeted applications.
In addition, the recipes were optimized in a way that scalability to pilot plant scale is possible. The safety assessment to produce polyols on pilot plant scale is currently ongoing. Polyol sampling on 100-kg scale is scheduled in Q3 2019. Before upscaling of the overall process becomes reasonable, further investigation of both selective CO2- and CO-conversion steps is necessary to develop an efficient and compatible process from waste gas streams to polyols.
Accompanying techno-economic and environmental assessments were conducted to analyse the environmental and cost performance of currently existing technologies that will serve as a reference to the Carbon4PUR technologies. Together with all partners an internal data collection and sharing system was developed, and the basic scenario for the lab-scale system of the novel technology was determined. Partners performed an as mutually aligned as possible LCA and economic assessment of these lab-scale systems. An initial techno-economic assessment was made comparing different possible routes for industrial scale implementation of the novel technologies. Furthermore, an initial social impact assessment was completed using the Social Return on Investment method. In the next 18 months, large-scale implementation of the novel technologies will be economically and environmentally analysed and additional commercial applications and market segments evaluated.
A public project website with a video has been set-up. The communication and dissemination plan was created and updated jointly with all partners. Participation and presentation of Carbon4PUR at a number of events as well as stakeholder events in Brussels and Marseille-Fos have been used for awareness creation and information of relevant stakeholders on the project’s objectives and ambitions.
We are aiming for CO/CO2-based polyols that are able to substitute conventional polyols resulting in products of the same or even superior quality that can reduce the carbon footprint vs. current reference materials manufactured from crude oil due to the re-utilisation of anthropogenic CO and CO2.
The developed catalytic waste-gas treatment processes successfully remove impurities with a minimal loss in CO/CO2. Further optimization in the next 18 months will lead to robust catalytic waste-gas treatment processes, which could have wider applications to treat CO/CO2-rich waste streams.
The innovative carbon capture and utilisation technology Carbon4PUR is intended to provide an efficient process for the conversion of CO/CO2-containing waste gas streams to polyols via two selective CO2/CO-conversion strategies. The feasibility of the overall process, which is currently investigated solely focusing on each individual stage, should be demonstrated on laboratory scale within the timeframe of this project. Furthermore, the capability of our novel and more sustainable polyols for polyurethane applications should be proven on pilot plant scale to underline value creation along the whole value chain. Catalyst development and chemical reaction engineering should result in a deep knowledge of the reaction system and allow to design an economic and ecological industrial process.
A forward-looking or “forecast” Social Return on Investment assessment enables an estimation of the value to society that would result from the development of a Carbon4PUR polyol production demonstration facility at the industrial zone of the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, France, e.g. employment opportunities, the reduction of CO2 emission and the additional investment that would be mobilised.
Carbon4PUR research collaboration along the value chain converts waste gases to insulations+coatings