World’s first pilot plant for bio-based Aniline

Feb 14, 2024 | Featured Article, News

Covestro is moving forward with the implementation of a unique process for producing the important chemical aniline entirely based on plant biomass instead of petroleum for the first time. At its Leverkusen site, the plastics manufacturer has now put a special pilot plant into operation for this purpose. Initially, large quantities of bio-based aniline will be produced there, so that the new technology can be further developed for production and transferred to an industrial scale. In the plastics industry, aniline is used to produce MDI, among other things. This in turn is used for insulating foam, for example, which saves energy in buildings and reduces the CO2 footprint. Covestro believes it will contribute to the promotion of the Circular Economy, which the company is aiming to become fully aligned with.

Pilot Plant for Bio-Based Aniline

The pilot plant for bio-based Aniline

 In attendance at the opening ceremony were North-Rhine Westphalia’s Deputy Minister President Mona Neubaur as well as Professor Walter Leitner, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr. Together with Dr. Thorsten Dreier, Chief Technology Officer of Covestro, they discussed the significance of bio-based raw materials for a sustainable chemicals industry of the future.

 “Among other things, aniline is a key raw material for foams used to insulate buildings and refrigerators,” explained Dreier, on the significance of the base chemical. “Until now, aniline has been produced from fossil raw materials such as petroleum, which releases CO2 and fuels climate change. With our new process, we are contributing to building up a circular, bio-based economy, and I am very proud that we have now succeeded in making the jump to the next technological level.”

 Covestro developed the process, which has already won several awards, together with partners in the scientific community. Compared to conventional technology, the process leads to a greatly improved CO2 footprint of aniline. Covestro has made a seven-digit investment in the pilot plant at the Chempark Leverkusen.

 “Sustainable innovations from North Rhine-Westphalia are making a decisive contribution to the transformation of Germany as a chemical location. The world’s first pilot plant for bio-based aniline is an impressive example of this,” emphasized Neubaur, who is also the State Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy. “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.”