Global materials firm Covestro is making progress with new projects in both carbon-fibre-reinforced polycarbonate and in polyurethane feedstocks based on carbon dioxide.
“These two things are in the early phases, but we're very excited about them,” board member Klaus Schaefer said in a recent interview from Covestro's Baytown, Texas, US location.
The Leverkusen, Germany-based firm's work on carbon fibre PC has increased since it acquired Thermoplast Composite of Langenfeld, Germany, in early 2015.
“We bought a technology firm with production capabilities, and that's helped us bring these materials into IT, telecommunications, next-generation phones, laptops and tablets,” said Schaefer, who also serves as Covestro's production and technology head.
In automotive, he added that carbon fibre PC has advanced mechanical properties that can allow for the replacement of metal in exterior parts.
Covestro in June opened its first commercial-scale plant to produce PU feedstock polyols from CO2 at its Dormagen, Germany, site. The 11 million pound-per-year capacity plant can make polyols that contain up to 20% CO2, according to Schaefer.
The Dormagen site was chosen because it had access to CO2 through a nearby ammonia plant. CO2 is a by-product of the ammonia process.
“We'll see how it goes for a year or two, to get material to test market and process on machines,” Schaefer explained.
He added that Covestro has benefited from being an independent company since being spun off from Bayer in September 2015.
“Huge developments have been made since becoming independent from Bayer,” Schaefer said. “There's one less layer of management. Less cooks in the kitchen improves the quality of the meal.”
Covestro employs 14,200 worldwide and posted sales of €12.1bn in 2015, up almost 3% versus 2014. The firm generates 47% of its sales from Europe/Middle East/Africa/Latin America; 26% from North America; and 15% from China.
Automotive is Covestro's largest end market with a 22% share. Its next two largest end markets are construction at 19% and furniture at 18%.