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

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2019-04-01 al 2021-03-31

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 tackled the two challenges at the same time: CO/CO2-rich waste gas streams, e.g. from the steel industry, served as interesting alternative carbon-resources for the chemical industry.
In the cross-sectoral project funded by the European Union (grant agreement no. 768919 ), 14 industrial and academic partners from seven countries investigated new technologies that allow converting gas streams from steel mills into polyurethane products. The consortium led by materials manufacturer Covestro investigated how carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) containing blast furnace gas from steel production can be used as a carbon source for polyols. Polyols are intermediates and key components of polyurethane-based insulation materials and coatings, and are typically derived from crude oil.
The conclusion: Ecologically as well as economically, the new technology was evaluated as beneficial.
A key achievement of Carbon4PUR is the identification of novel catalysts that enable the production of new polyols. With the help of these catalysts, the research partners succeeded in producing polyols using CO or CO2 from gas mixtures at a laboratory scale.
As part of the research project, the Carbon4PUR CO technology was successfully upscaled to a semi-industrial scale. First examples of applications such as rigid foams to make insulation boards have successfully been demonstrated by the partner Recticel. The partner Megara Resins has succeeded in incorporating the new polyols into waterborne polyurethane dispersions for wood coatings.
In addition, RWTH Aachen University has investigated the acceptance of carbon capture and utilization (CCU) using the example of insulation boards in a scientific study: The public still knows far too little about CCU technology. However, when end users receive adequate information, a generally positive attitude emerges. Nevertheless, there is still a remaining need to increase awareness of CCU to strengthen the technology’s and product’s acceptance.
Carbon4PUR was an example of cooperation between partners from the entire value chain. The cross-sectoral project has strengthened the idea of alliance in European industry. Assessment of the social impact reveal that Carbon4PUR can create and secure jobs.
UGent has successfully developed both a single-step catalytic process and a two-step chemical looping process for the conditioning of steel mill gases. The chemical looping process was evaluated in a non-adiabatic lab-scale reactor, using model BFG. The selective catalytic oxidation process was up-scaled and successfully validated on-site at Arcelor Mittal Gent with real industrial blast furnace gas.
With the aim of converting CO to high-valuable intermediates for polyol production, CEA, RWTH-CAT and Covestro worked together on providing efficient and scalable catalysts for the ring-expansion carbonylation of epoxides. Based on first application trials at Covestro, Megara and Recticel, succinic anhydride was identified as target intermediate in the CO-conversion step. The CO-derived SA was successfully applied in polyol synthesis and rigid foam production as proof of concept on lab scale. These foams showed no deviations to foams prepared from petrochemical SA. Therefore, the development and up-scaling of polyol recipes was conducted using commercial intermediates. Furthermore, the feasibility of gas mixtures was demonstrated for the new CO-conversion and the established CO2-technology.
The most promising synthetic recipes for polyol production were optimized on kg-scale and sampled to the project partners Recticel and Megara for initial lab trials. According to their feedback certain polyol recipes were optimised and scaled to pilot-plant scale (450 kg).
Recticel performed a series of trials in which reference polyol was partially replaced with the different Carbon4PUR polyols. Up to 70% of the standard polyol can be replaced by Carbon4PUR polyol when higher surfactant levels are applied to make insulation boards with technical specifications comparable to the market reference (TRL 6).
Megara performed synthesis and characterisation of several formulations of waterborne polyurethane dispersions (PUDs) and optimised their properties to set the basis for up-scaling at semi-industrial scale and application testing. Overall, the properties of the PUDs obtained by using the Carbon4PUR polyol were fulfilling the requirements of wood coatings (TRL 6).
RWTH-AVT combined all technologies to a holistic process concept as foundation for the accompanying environmental, economic, and social assessments. Several scenarios were assessed. Moreover, research focussed on the acceptance and perception of CCU has been done by the RWTH-COMM to help understanding consumer needs and potential market barriers.
The Carbon4PUR website as the main information source for the public contains all public deliverables and scientific publications as well as other outcomes like the Carbon4PUR Mapping Tool, project videos and other communication materials including the public stakeholder events.
With respect to exploitation actions, a stakeholder analysis and a market analysis has been performed. Detailed implemented or foreseen exploitation actions include the application for 16 patents, 2 spin-off potentials, and the publication of six master and seven PhD theses. Finally, obtained knowledge shall be exploited in follow-up projects.
Assuming yearly production levels of 50 kt/a for CO-based polyol and about ~110 kt/a for CO2-based polyols, the holistic scenario with chemical looping was the most promising: LCA by UL revealed a reduction between 4-15% for most impact categories. This may result in annual greenhouse gas savings up to 90 kt/a CO2-equivalents. This scenarios also seemed to be the most cost-effective. The comparison of scenarios shows that CO2- and CO-based polyols can be more efficiently produced using rather pure gas streams, since additional inert gas components have a huge impact on overall mass flow rates and the necessary process pressures, which is reflected by higher energy demands and increasing amount of assets.
Moreover, the technical and economic feasibility of process implementation in Fos-sur-Mer was studied. Technical, administrative and environmental constraints for the construction of the CO2 pipeline between ArcelorMittal’s and Covestro’s plants and potential synergies with other local actors were identified. As direct socio-economic benefits Carbon4PUR could create green jobs or leverage investments. The technology’s Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis by SPG, which aggregates all societal benefits, concluded that for every EUR invested in the Carbon4PUR project, EUR 0.89 of social value will be created.
In order to enable potential stakeholders in the CCU sector to identify geographical areas with technical potential for industrial symbiosis in settings similar to the Carbon4PUR arrangement, a user-friendly mapping tool was developed. Five preferable locations and five regions were identified as meeting the defined replication conditions and thus offering promising settings for industrial symbiosis.
Carbon4PUR Megara wood coating
Carbon4PUR Recticel insulation board
Carbon4PUR CO foam
Carbon4PUR people behind the project
Carbon4PUR methodology
Carbon4PUR CO CO2 technology