Covestro has opened the doors to its new bio-anillin plant in Leverkusen, Germany. The inauguration of the world’s first pilot plant for the production of bio-based aniline is taking place today, both on-site and online.
Aniline is the starting material for a wide range of products, including pharmaceuticals, paints, and plastics. It is also the precursor of methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), used to produce rigid polyurethane foams present worldwide in building insulation and refrigerators. Covestro has an annual global aniline production capacity of more than one million tonnes.
Covestro is now manufacturing ‘large quantities’ of anillin entirely from plant biomass in the new facility.
In the two-stage new production process, an industrial sugar from plant biomass is first converted into an intermediate product using a newly developed microorganism as a catalyst. In the second step, this intermediate product is then processed with very high efficiency into aniline, according to a Covestro description of the process.
Covestro developed the award-winning process together with partners in the scientific community. Compared to conventional technology, the process reportedly leads to improved CO2 footprint of aniline. Covestro has made a seven-digit investment in the pilot plant at the Chempark Leverkusen.
The Deputy Minister President and Minister of Economic Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, Mona Neubaur, and Prof. Walter Leitner from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr were some of the personalities present at the inauguration ceremony and panel discussion.
"Sustainable innovations from North Rhine-Westphalia are making a decisive contribution to the transformation of Germany as a chemical location,” said Neubar. “The world's first pilot plant for bio-based aniline is an impressive example of this.In order for the industry to continue on its path towards a circular economy and climate neutrality, it needs planning and investment security above all. As the state government, we are therefore working hard to ensure that North Rhine-Westphalia remains an attractive business location and becomes the first climate-neutral industrial region in Europe."
Professor Leitner also underlined the importance of partnerships. “The project illustrates the cooperation between research-based industry and application-oriented science. There are many intersecting partnerships like these, especially in NRW. Germany needs more of this in order to assert itself as a research and technology location.”