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Pilot scale demonstration of novel CO2 co-polymerisation catalysts in the PU polyol market

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CO2Catalyst (Pilot scale demonstration of novel CO2 co-polymerisation catalysts in the PU polyol market)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-06-30

The European polymer industry faces increasing pressure to produce innovative products at lower cost. Econic Technologies has invented catalyst systems enabling the replacement of up to 40% of petrochemical feedstock in the production of polyurethane (PU) polyols, also providing product performance improvement with low cost waste CO2. The Econic catalyst system creates novel value-add polyol building blocks for PU and offers potential feedstock savings. Econic’s catalysts can be deployed with a low cost retrofit to existing chemical production facilities.

Economic and environmental benefits
Producers save costs and diversify product base; Europe increases its competitive advantage and society cuts CO2 output by reduced reliance on petrochemical feedstocks.
The process combines reducing dependency on fossil fuels and proposing a form of CO2 utilisation which valorises CO2.
Society will benefit due to the substitution of non-renewable fossil fuels with CO2, the Econic catalysts save up to 1.2 mT of CO2 per mT of polyol produced. Project impact forecasts show CO2 consumption of 1.5-2 MT/a year by 2023.

Multiple objectives
Overall, our technology will enable the PU industry to develop more sustainable manufacturing processes. The Phase II project funded through the Horizon 2020 grant will enable Econic to demonstrate catalyst performance to customers and optimise performance; this allows further development of new product innovations and reinforces market acceptance. The project will accelerate the commercial launch of Econic’s catalyst technology.
The delivery of the project, and the H2020 support received, have driven Econic forward in the target areas below, meeting or exceeding expectations. The progress demonstrated in the first 18 months was fundamental to securing investment from a new industry focused investor. The project covered six key areas:

Cost-efficient catalyst manufacture proven scalable for commercial production
Econic successfully carried out:
• Repeat kilogram-scale batches of catalyst production (scaled up from laboratory milligram scale)
• A 20kg scaled-up production campaign at a major European contract manufacturer. This represents process validation in an industry standard environment
• A catalyst manufacture cost model, leading to a 20% reduction in costs
• Optimisation and improvement with the help of a H2020 coach
• Collaboration with a third-party partner using an industry standard framework of documentation. A qualification programme is also underway

Demonstration of the use of Econic catalyst in industry-relevant setting
Kilogram-scale and multi-kilogram scale polyol production using Econic’s catalyst were carried out in house, at suppliers and by collaborating customers. Immediately prior to launch of this Project, Econic developed a new Tunable catalyst system, significantly increasing the application reach of this technology. This Project has demonstrated the technical feasibility and scalability of the polyol manufacturing process with both catalysts. The Customer Demonstration Unit (CDU) was completed with equipment co-funded by this grant. The CDU is a unique selling tool, which has provided great credibility to the Econic story with both Customers and Investors.

Demonstration of downstream market acceptance
PU samples and data have been produced for rigid foams, hot melt adhesives, elastomers and coatings. Papers on Econic's catalyst system were presented at the CPI Technical Polyurethane Conference in Oct 2017 (on benchmarked properties of CO2-based coatings using Econic’s Tunable system) and UTECH Europe 2018 (on improved performance properties of rigid PU foam using CO2-based polymers). Programs are underway with downstream PU manufacturers to demonstrate use of the polyols in a range of applications. Performance has been benchmarked with industry standards and verified externally.

Securing IP and FTO for new innovations
Econic’s IP ownership in any of our collaborations has been secured: A Framework of Services Agreement used for subcontracting and toll manufacturing assigns any IP developed to Econic. Non-Disclosure and Material Transfer Agreements are used with all parties. A robust contract manufacturing agreement framework and several Joint Development Agreements are in place. Full FTO review was conducted for Econic catalyst systems. Independent of the H2020 project, Econic continued to grow its own IP portfolio from its research activities.

Assuring regulatory compliance
The Econic catalyst and its intermediates are new chemicals to be produced within the EU and to be imported into the USA and other regions. The requirements of the legislation have been reviewed in relation to PPORD notification and Reach registration. A plan with detailed timeline, costs and trigger points of legislation has been put in place to ensure compliance in Europe and USA whilst China and South Korea are also being considered.

Dissemination, communication, exploitation
Our focus is growing and maintaining development partnerships with early adopters whilst engaging identified customers. A value model, pricing strategy and model catalyst sales agreement have been developed. Polyol samples for parallel application development are being supplied to several target customers. Econic have rebranded and the website has been updated. Specific papers and presentations were delivered at targeted industry events. A sales plan for broader market exploitation has been developed and is being executed.
The standard processes used by the PU industry rely on crude oil. Competitive technologies and other processes using CO2 require high pressure, higher level investments and are limited to either a relative low CO2 incorporation, or strictly from an alternating reaction.

Econic’s innovative catalysts’ reactivity and selectivity enable CO2 containing polymers to be produced at standard industry pressures; therefore, the system can be retrofitted to existing chemical plants. In addition, Econic’s Tunable catalyst allows tailoring of the CO2 content to each application’s needs. This enables the production of novel polyol products which may have superior physical properties.

Impact summary

• Market potential: Global demand for polyols from the PU industry is established and growing. The PU polyol market, worth €14.2bn in 2015, is expected to grow at 4.5% CAGR to c€18.1bn by 2020, corresponding to c12,200kt. A conservative estimate of 5% market value for catalyst cost indicates c€0.9bn catalyst market value. Conventional polycarbonates have a market size c€8.5bn growing at around 6% per annum, and the high-performance films market is c€8.5bn growing at 7% per annum, for an additional catalyst market size (est 5% of €21bn) of €1bn.
• Environmental benefits: Econic expects CO2 savings from 305 market adoption in the PU polyol market alone to reach 3.5mTes/a by 2026, the equivalent of taking >2 million cars off the road. See illustration provided in attached images.
• Resulting from this project, polyol producers will be able to replace up to 40% of costly (~€1250/mT) petrochemical-based feedstock with low cost, CO2 feedstock. The benefit for polyol manufacturers could exceed €500m over the first five years of sales, safeguarding the competitive position the European PU industry which contributes €207bn to the European economy and creates employment for around 1m people in the EU[1].

[1] See ISOPA, 2014 https://tinyurl.com/y8spde6l
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- coating pencil hardness tester
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant Thermal Analyser
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- drying time recorder
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- Thermal Conductivity analyser
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- degasser
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- moulding tool
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant Polyol reactor
Illustration of CO2 abatement as a result of Econic's catalyst adoption in the PU industry
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- glossmeter
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- short path evaporator
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- demo plant
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- Tintometer
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- pendulum
Equipment purchased co-funded by grant- liquid reactor