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Issue 01/2020

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  • Bioplastics
  • Plastics
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Highlights: Automotive Recycling Cover Story: Biobased Fur

Opinion Renewable Carbon

Opinion Renewable Carbon Strategy Renewable Carbon is the key to a sustainable and future-oriented chemical and plastic industry The major threats and challenges to our planet are climate change and biodiversity loss. The main reasons for climate change are human CO 2 emissions, mainly fossil CO 2 emissions from utilised crude oil, natural gas and coal. The main reasons for the biodiversity loss are climate change, alongside factors like land degradation and habitat loss. These are emerging as top threats to wildlife around the globe. Climate change is likely to become one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss by the end of the century. Climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life cycles, or the development of new physical traits [1]. By the end of the century, climate change and its impacts may be the dominant direct drivers of biodiversity loss and changes in ecosystem services globally [2]. Simultaneously, emissions in 2019 rose to a record 55 Gigatonnes (Gt) CO 2 e, compared to 50 Gt CO 2 e in 2018. Yet to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C in 2030, these emissions must be reduced to a maximum of 24 Gt CO 2 e per year [11]. The goal is clear: STOP Fossil Carbon Use! Globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 % of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2°C. [3] Only a full phase-out of fossil carbon will help prevent a further increase in CO 2 concentrations. All of the fossil carbon extracted from the ground will sooner or later be released into the atmosphere, consequently increasing the concentration of CO 2 . “Renewable Energy” Decarbonisation of the Energy Sector There is a clear and more or less consistent Energy Policy designed to achieve a 100 % renewable energy system based on solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energies. Apart from bioenergy, bio- and CO 2 -based fuels, all of these come under the heading of “decarbonisation”. Green electricity and green hydrogen for the energy and fuel sector. “Renewable Carbon” for a Sustainable Chemical and Plastic Industry There is no corresponding policy or strategy for the materials sector, especially for the chemical and plastics industry. The term decarbonisation is sheer nonsense for organic chemistry, which is based on carbon. It is based on a lack of knowledge and used as a direct analogy to the energy field. We should NEVER use it in this context! But the term is not only nonsense, it is also risky, because it avoids the question of the right carbon sources. And this is exactly what we have to provide. We need a future oriented renewable carbon strategy. And there are only three sources of renewable carbon. Renewable Carbon is the Key Definition: We propose the term Renewable Carbon to refer to all carbon sources that avoid or substitute any additional fossil carbon from the geosphere. Renewable Carbon can come from the atmosphere, biosphere or technosphere – but must not come from the geosphere. Renewable Carbon circulates between the atmosphere, biosphere and the technosphere. Similar concepts and strategies “In the carbon reuse economy fossil carbon is left in the ground while aboveground carbon circulates without accumulating to the atmosphere. ... we believe that the carbon reuse economy can have a significant role in mitigating climate change and creating new business based on sustainable carbon.” [4]. In 2016, the Finnish consulting firm Pöyry was already using the term “recarbonisation” in a similar way, but limiting its scope to biogenic carbon only [5]. In the roadmap for the Dutch Chemical Industry towards 2050, the authors use the term “Circular & Biobased”, without including carbon utilisation, which is mentioned as an additional area [6]. The European Commission includes in their plastic strategy the three non-fossil carbon sources [7]: „Using more recycled plastics can reduce dependence on the extraction of fossil fuels ... Alternative feedstocks, including bio-based feedstocks and gaseous effluents (e.g. carbon dioxide or methane) can also be developed to avoid using fossil resources.” There are only three sources of renewable carbon • Renewable carbon from the recycling of existing plastics and other organic chemistry products, from the Technosphere • Renewable carbon gained from all types of biomass, from the Biosphere • Renewable carbon from direct CO 2 utilisation, from the Technosphere and Atmosphere The equivalent to the decarbonisation of the energy sector is a transition to renewable carbon in the chemical and plastics industries. Strategy in detail • All three carbon sources are essential for a complete transition to renewable carbon, and • all three should be similarly used by the industry and supported by politics. • Fight no fraternal wars! There’d only be one winner: fossil carbon. 20 bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/20] Vol. 15

Opinion By: Michael Carus nova-Institut GmbH, Hürth (Cologne), Germany Renewable Energy and Renewable Carbon for a Sustainable Future Solar Wind Water Co 2 Biomass Recycling Decarbonisation Renewable Energy Hydrogen Renewable Carbon Industry - Home - Mobility Renewable Carbon-Based Fuels Chemicals - Plastics - Other Materials STOP STOP Source:nova Institute • Share to win! • To replace all the additional fossil carbon, we need the smartest mix of all three. • We need a future materials policy – a policy on renewable carbon. Which of the renewable carbon options come into play should be decided by technology and market forces - and not by politics. This depends on regional factors and concrete applications. Chemical Industry and Climate Change The chemical industry was responsible for approx. 7 % of the global anthropogenic GHG emissions in the year 2018 [8]. This share could rise to 15 % in 2030 and 25 % in 2050. Why? The projected global CAGR for the chemical industry over the coming decades is 7 %, far higher than the forecasts for the energy sector (1-2 %). Moreover, there is an ongoing process of decarbonisation in the energy sector. In other words, the chemical industry could well become one of the main emitters of GHG in the future. Renewable Carbon is the key. The chemical and plastics industry will only develop into a sustainable sector once it bids farewell to fossil raw materials such as crude oil, natural gas and coal for good and uses nothing but renewable carbon as a raw material in organic chemistry. The equivalent to decarbonisation in the energy sector is a transition to renewable carbon in the chemical and plastics industries. Crude oil USD200/barrel for Cost Parity The “ROAD MAP CHEMIE 2050 - Towards a Greenhouse Gas Neutral Chemical Industry in Germany” [9] published by DECHEMA and FutureCamp in 2019 develops three possible scenarios for the German chemical industry. According to the “greenhouse gas neutral path 2050” scenario: “The new, electricity-based processes will increase the electricity demand of the German chemical industry to 685 TWh (terawatt hours) per year from the mid-2030s, which is more than the total electricity production in Germany in 2018. ... Companies would have to invest around 68 billion Euros more between 2020 and 2050, most of it from 2040 onwards. The conversion of the basic chemical processes examined in the roadmap alone entails additional investments of up to around 45 billion Euros.” Based on the data from this study, we have calculated the oil price at which a complete switch to CO 2 would be cost neutral. The result is USD200 per barrel, more than three times the price of crude oil today. Non-energetic demand from the Chemical Industry Our calculation shows that for the production of 20 PWh solar electricity, only 0.9 % of the Sahara region is needed for photovoltaics (PV). The PV yield in the Sahara is typically about 250 GWh/km 2 /y [10]. This implies that to produce 20 PWh from PV an area of 80,000 km 2 is needed. Compared to the total area of the Sahara of 9,200,000 km 2 , this is only 0.9 % of the Sahara region (the world’s deserts occupy a total area of 30,000,000 km 2 ). The energy generated in this area could cover the global non-energetic carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry, as it was in 2018, when applying it to carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) processes. Bio-based Plastics in a Crisis? • No political recognition of the benefits, potential and sheer necessity of bio-based and biodegradable polymers. Slow growth due to higher costs. • More barriers than policy support. • In strong contrast to biofuels and bioenergy, which are strongly supported by quotas (European Renewable Energy Directives, REDI and II). • NGOs say: “The use of biomass puts unacceptable pressure on land and biodiversity.” A statement which is wrong, but stronger than 50 scientific reports. • The unreasonable call for “No food-crops for industry”. Even paper uses far more starch than bio-based plastics. Europe has an overproduction of beet sugar; the image of food is an obstacle to marketing. • Recycled plastics are often the preferred option. bioplastics MAGAZINE [01/20] Vol. 15 21

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