Within the chemicals industry, aniline has multiple talents. For instance, it is used as basis for the manufacturing of medicines, dyes and plastics. Covestro needs aniline for the production of MDI, a main component in insulating foams. When it comes to the formulation of aniline, for the first time we have now developed a process to derive it completely from renewable raw materials instead of crude oil – a breakthrough.
The industry currently wins aniline from benzene, a petroleum-based raw material. However, unrefined raw sugar, which is already derived on large scale as a renewable raw material from, for example, feed corn, straw and wood, can be used instead. The newly developed process uses a microorganism as a catalyst to first convert the industrial sugar into a precursor. The aniline is then produced by means of chemical catalysis in a second step. One hundred percent of the carbon contained in aniline thus comes from renewable raw materials.
This breakthrough enables a clear improvement in the CO2 footprint of the production process, both with us and in our customers’ plants. The new process also brings direct economic benefits because a broader base of raw materials helps manufacturers to be more independent of the fluctuations of the market. And in a responsible way: the manufacturing of bio-based aniline only requires a small cultivation area and can be based on non-food feedstocks, even when it comes to supplying larger plants.
This opens up even further promise for the viable and sustainable production of polyurethane rigid foam which is widely used to insulate buildings and cooling devices.