A new independent lifecycle assessment has found that the use of the catalyst technology developed by UK-based Econic Technologies to produce polyols provides very considerable savings in carbon emissions compared to the traditional manufacture of these products.
The study, conducted by PRé Sustainability, certifies that Econic’s catalyst technology reduces CO2 emissions by 30% when used to produce polyol, a precursor of polyurethane. The catalyst enables the CO2 to react with a group of chemicals called epoxides – traditional building blocks in the polymer industry – to make polymers that can contain up to 50% by weight of CO2.
The study compared the environmental impacts of Econic’s polyol production process to those of traditional polyols in a cradle-to-gate assessment, and considered raw material production, raw material transportation, and polyol manufacture. The study was critically reviewed by an expert in the field to ensure compliance to ISO standards 14040 and 14044.
The lifecycle assessment found that for every tonne of CO2 used as a raw material, at least three tonnes of emissions are avoided, mainly due to the reduction in the requirement for energy-intensive traditional raw materials. The world consumes 11 million tonnes of polyol in polyurethane products per year. The impact of the technology, when adopted across the key polyurethane sector, is a reduction of CO2 equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road or planting 189 million trees per year.
“As consumers drive demand for more sustainable products, with regulatory reform and greater social responsibility, greater numbers of manufacturers are decarbonising their supply chains,” said Keith Wiggins, CEO of Econic Technologies. This catalyst technology enables manufacturers to provide customers with more sustainable, higher-performing and more cost-effective products today using CO2.
According to the company, next to the environmental benefits it offers, the technology enhances the performance of end products. Flexible foams, used in products like mattresses and cushions, typically last longer, while coatings and elastomers also become more durable, thereby increasing the lifespan of buildings, textiles and essential equipment.
According to Professor Nilay Shah, Head of the Chemical Engineering department at Imperial College London, who reviewed the LCA before publication as an independent expert in low carbon process technologies, LCAs will plan a vital role in creating confidence in the burgeoning Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage sector.
“Econic is one of the early pioneers in the sector and so the positive LCA is not just an endorsement of its catalyst, but in the validity of the CCUS as an industry.”
Econic Technologies is a British cleantech company that was founded in 2011 by Charlotte Williams, now Professor at Oxford University. The company currently operates at a state-of-the-art facility at Alderley Park, the science hub south of Manchester, with an additional customer demonstration facility located at The Heath in Runcorn.