LONDON—Covestro is developing a new "butyl-type" rubber that uses CO2 as a feedstock, according to Patrick Thomas, CEO of the Leverkusen, Germany-based polymer maker.
Thomas highlighted the development at an May 18 press briefing in London alongside a range of innovations in the company's core polyurethane (PU) chemicals and polycarbonates businesses.
"We are where we were about four years ago with PU," Thomas said, referring to the company's near-commercialized development of flexible urethane foams produced using feedstock-derived from CO2.
Production, in which CO2 has so far replaced up to 20 percent of propylene oxide in the urethane polyol, has now reached 4,000 metric tons, with a 100,000-tons-per-year plant envisaged within five years.
The rubber emerged from related research by Covestro and Aachen University into the thermodynamics of using CO2 in other feedstocks.
"This is a new C4-based, butyl-type rubber and is looking quite promising," Thoams said. "It isn't butyl rubber but it is similar. It is a new class, not old rubber."
Thomas went on to explain: "You have a methane-formaldehyde route into CO2 so you can build up C4. This is a completely new route."
Methane—a potent greenhouse gas if released into the atmosphere—could be sourced for little or no cost from the shale gas industry, the Covestro boss also suggested.
"At the moment, in the U.S. they are actually burning the methane from the shale gas to keep the fracking wells running," Thomas said.