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Sustainability

Low-carbon processes advance in Europe

Companies explore sustainable feedstock options in transition to a circular economy

by Alex Scott
December 3, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 47

 

Photo of sample bottles containing renewable feedstocks.
Credit: Neste
Neste will substitute fossil fuel feedstock with waste oils, fats, and plastics.

Three recent initiatives demonstrate the diverse methods chemical companies are exploring to reduce the carbon footprint of the products they make in Europe.

DSM and Neste have formed a partnership to replace a “significant” portion of the fossil fuel used to make some of DSM’s polymers with feedstock Neste derives from waste plastics, oils, and fats. The partners aim to substitute several thousand metric tons (t) of feedstock with fossil-derived feedstock in the near term.

The chemically recycled and biobased materials used will be certified by ISCC, an international sustainability certification system for feedstocks. The partners say the initiative is a response to consumer demand for more sustainable and circular products. DSM plans to offer versions of its full range of polymers made using sustainable feedstock by 2030.

Separately, the catalyst firm Haldor Topsoe and the petrochemical maker Braskem say they have achieved demonstration-scale production of biobased ethylene glycol in Lyngby, Denmark, using their jointly developed Mosaik technology. The demonstration confirms the process’s potential for large-scale production, the partners say. The process uses sugar as its main feedstock.

Ethylene glycol is a raw material for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used to make bottles and textiles. “This technology has the potential to revolutionize the PET market,” Gustavo Sergi, Braskem’s executive officer for renewable chemicals and specialties, says in a press release.

In a third initiative, the Swedish chemical firm Perstorp has designed a process, Project Air, to replace the 200,000 t per year of fossil fuel–derived methanol it currently consumes with methanol made from waste carbon dioxide, biomethane, and hydrogen generated from water electrolysis.

Perstorp says building a facility to produce the green methanol, which would require public funding, would reduce the firm’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 500,000 t per year. The project would involve building a large-scale carbon capture and utilization system.

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