Innovating to survive: how German firms plan to harness CO2 emissions

Nov 27 (Reuters) – Leading German industrial companies are looking at smart ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Following are some of the projects they are undertaking to feed CO2 from waste gas back into the industrial value chain.

THYSSENKRUPP

The steel and technology group is working with about seven other companies to convert waste gas from steel mills into ammonia for nitrogen fertilizers or into methanol, a precursor to various chemical products.

Steel mill gas, a mixture of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, CO2, hydrogen and methane, is currently burned to extract heat in a relatively inefficient process.

The venture plans to build a medium-sized pilot plant and to have a full-blown 1-billion-euro ($1.1 billion) chemical reactor running by 2030.

BAYER’S COVESTRO

The chemicals maker is planning to put a polyurethane foam production line on stream next year that will replace some of the petrochemical precursor materials with CO2.

This will generate a carbon footprint that is 14 percent smaller than via the conventional method, according to a study by Aachen University.

The 5,000 tonnes-per-year production line near Cologne, 5 to 10 percent the size of a standard site, will use food-grade CO2 that would otherwise go into fizzy drinks from a nearby Ineos petrochemical plant.

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The feedstock could in future also be sequestered from a power plant’s flue gas.

BRAIN BIOTECH

The unlisted biotech firm, partly owned by the German family behind Recaro aircraft seats and strollers, is genetically engineering microbes so that they metabolize CO2 into succinic acid, a versatile raw material that can be used in polyesters and food additives.

The company’s initial blue-chip sponsor, utility RWE , bailed on the project in 2012 when RWE was burdened by Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Brain won a new, as yet undisclosed, partner with whom it plans to build a pilot fermenter that feeds off an industrial exhaust stream by 2017 or 2018.

Among its other unconventional ideas, Brain breeds cell cultures from cats’ taste buds to help develop pet food ingredients.

It is also working on microbes that could make lubricant ingredients out of sewage or that may help replace hazardous cyanide leaching in mining of precious metals. ($1 = 0.9427 euros)
 

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