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From waste gas to raw material

Carbon dioxide is now being looked at as a substitute for petroleum in the chemical industry. Enormous amounts of carbon dioxide escape from buildings, cars, factories and power plants. In the future, however, this gas is to do more than just dissipate unused into the atmosphere: the chemical industry is now turning CO2 into a new building block for high-performance plastics to preserve scarce fossil resources like petroleum. Its approach is right in line with current trends, especially in view of the global Climate Change Summit beginning in Bonn, Germany, on November 6. Covestro considers itself a pioneer in the field of CO2 exploitation and is partnering with other companies and universities on numerous projects.

Just a few weeks ago, another European joint initiative was launched: a new consortium of 14 partners from seven countries, led by Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies, now plans to investigate how CO2 and other waste gases from the steel industry can be used efficiently and sustainably to produce inputs for insulating materials and coatings.

The new project is sponsored by the European Commission and introduces an unprecedented cooperation extending from waste gas producers to plastics manufacturers. A possible production facility could be built in southern France, where an ArcelorMittal steel factory and a Covestro site are close neighbours.

Covestro has already been using carbon dioxide since last year to produce a precursor for flexible foam. It contains up to 20% CO2, which is chemically bound. This will make it possible to save the same amount of petroleum. The foam was designed specifically for use in upholstered furniture and mattresses.

At the same time, the company is researching additional areas of application for CO2-based raw materials. The use of CO2 as a raw material was made possible in the first place by a scientific breakthrough achieved by Covestro and its partners several years ago. It is thanks to this advancement that CO2 can now be used ecologically and economically in these applications.

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