Aromatic Renewables as an Opportunity for MATerials with Improved Circularity and Sustainability (AROMATICS)

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

The production of base and specialty chemicals in Dutch chemical clusters such as those in Rotterdam, Terneuzen and Geleen causes large emissions of greenhouse gases. A large share of these is emitted during the production of petroleum-derived aromatic chemicals (‘aromatics’). These include primary aromatics benzene, toluene and xylenes (‘BTX’) and important BTX derivatives terephthalic acid, phthalic acid anhydride, benzoic acid and styrene. So far, technologies to produce these from renewable carbon sources such as biomass or CO2 have not reached commercial scales. In order to reach our climate goals, we need to speed up in bringing promising lab-scale bio-aromatics production methods to a much higher level of technology readiness. This requires a value-chain approach, i.e. a collaboration of suppliers of renewable carbon feedstock, chemical technology providers, end users that rely on aromatics in their products, and other stakeholders.

AROMATICS contributes to the goals of MOOI mission C – Industry by developing three promising bio-aromatics production platforms and bringing these to a technology readiness level of TRL5/6. The project wants to create new value chains by connecting suppliers of renewable carbon feedstock to technology providers, the chemical industry and brand owners. In this way, once the developed technologies have been implemented, aromatics production can be achieved with significant CO2 emission savings.

Korte omschrijving
Feedstock suppliers in the consortium will produce and deliver renewable carbon sources with the required purity, for conversion to bio-BTX (platform 1), and aromatics-precursors furanics (platform 2) and crotonaldehyde (platform 3). Bio-BTX will be oxidized by a new sustainable technology to existing bulk aromatics benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, and phthalates (phthalic anhydride, isophthalic and terephthalic acid). Furanics will be converted by a Diels-Alder / aromatization sequence to either near-drop-in phthalic anhydrides or benzaldehydes. Further oxidations of some of these will be performed to yield additional aromatic derivatives. Crotonaldehyde (derived from bioethanol) will be dimerized to methylbenzaldehydes. These will be oxidized to make terephthalic acid. The toxicity of novel intermediates will be evaluated with in-vitro bioassays. Both intermediates and final building blocks will be tested for their performance in coatings, lubricants, high-performance polyamides as well as in fragrance formulations. Gate-to-gate techno-economic and cradle-to-grave life cycle analyses will establish the feasibility of the processes in terms of commercial potential and sustainability.

1. Technologies for production of carbohydrate- and ethanol-derived platform molecules, as precursors of aromatic core building blocks.
2. Three platform technologies expanded for production of renewable aromatic core building blocks, from which several existing (‘drop-in’) and novel near-drop-in aromatic derivatives can be produced.
3. Oxidation pathways developed towards bulk aromatics such as terephthalic acid and phthalic anhydride and various near-drop-in ‘look-alikes’, including production of representative user samples that allow validation in applications.
4. Validation of developed and produced bio-aromatic building blocks and precursors in user application, demonstrating potential of the established renewable carbon value chain.
5. Dedicated toolbox for toxicity, techno-economic and sustainability assessment of renewable aromatics value chains. Toxicity of aromatics and potential of the value chains is assessed through gate-to-gate techno-economics, and cradle-to-grave LCA’s.
6. Relevant stakeholders involved across the full value-chain. Effective dissemination of outcomes.