The chemical reactor where CO2 will be used to produce a component of polyurethane foams.
Bayer MaterialScience says it is “right on schedule” to commence the production of plastics using CO2 from 2016.
A production line is currently under construction for this purpose at its Dormagen site in Germany.
A chemical reactor weighing 25 metric tonnes has been put in place at the heart of this line, with the last major part – a CO2 tank – due to be installed in the autumn.
The installation of the CO2 tank will take the construction of the 15 million euro plant into the homestretch.
Dr. Karsten Malsch, Overall Project Manager, said: "If everything continues to run smoothly we will be able to start operations at the beginning of the coming year,” which will mean construction will have taken a year to complete.
Bayer MaterialScience intends to use the new production line as part of its “Dream Production” project, and for the first time integrate carbon dioxide as a raw material for polyols – crucial precursors for manufacturing foam – on a commercial scale.
The line is designed for an annual production capacity of 5,000 metric tonnes.
The idea is for the innovative polyol, which contains approximately 20 percent CO2, to initially be used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam mattresses.
In terms of CO2 replacing petroleum, intensive tests have shown that the material using CO2 is at least as good as conventional products.
The carbon dioxide replaces some of the petroleum that these kinds of polyols and polyurethanes are usually based on.
"The plastics industry has long been looking for an alternative raw material basis to relieve the reliance on increasingly scarce fossil fuels," explained Malsch.
There is also growing demand for sustainable products in society. "We believe that our new process can offer a solution in both these areas," added Malsch.
Some scientific groundwork was required in order to use CO2 in plastics production. Bayer MaterialScience performed this in collaboration with the CAT Catalytic Center, a research institute at Aachen University.
The greatest challenge lay in finding a catalyst that would cause the carbon dioxide, which is chemically very inert, to react efficiently with other substances.
Bayer MaterialScience still have research and development work ongoing and hope to further increase the proportion of CO2 in the products in the future while at the same time aiming to increase the number of CO2-based plastics.