Specialty chemicals company LANXESS has recently taken another positive step towards climate protection by setting a scope 3 emissions target: The group aims to make its upstream and downstream supply chains climate-neutral by 2050. In fact, LANXESS has been committed to promoting the low-carbon transformation of the industrial chain. Starting from themselves, the group has reduced its products carbon footprint and launched a series of green solutions in recent years, playing an active role in promoting the whole society to achieve climate-neutral and taking an important role in leading the sustainable development of chemical industry.
Taking a crucial step in positively reducing carbon emissions
LANXESS’ climate targets have now been approved by the renowned Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The joint initiative of climate protection organizations CDP, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and World Wide Fund for Nature has validated the group’s targets for reducing its emissions and approved that LANXESS is helping to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This temperature is generally considered to be the threshold for preventing a climate catastrophe.
“To stop climate change, our societies must transform to climate neutrality. We want to do our part. Our goal of becoming climate neutral in direct emissions and energy sourced by 2040 is already very ambitious. With the additional targets for our scope 3 emissions, we are taking the next step together with our suppliers and customers,” said Matthias Zachert, Chairman of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG. “The approval of our commitment by SBTi shows that we are on the right responsible path.”
To achieve its scope 3 targets, LANXESS has launched the Net Zero Value Chain Program. This strategy towards climate neutrality along the entire value chain is based on three pillars:
Firstly, the sustainable raw materials.
LANXESS is realigning its raw materials purchase and is increasingly sourcing sustainable raw materials that are bio-based, recycled or produced using renewable energies. Current examples of these raw materials are sustainably produced cyclohexane for high-performance plastics under the Durethan brand or starch-based polyether polyols for prepolymers under the Adiprene brand.
Secondly, the green logistics.
The CO2 footprint is weighted more heavily than before when selecting freight transport modes. LANXESS also intends to make use of innovative solutions, such as “green ships” with sustainable drive trains. Improved logistics planning is also intended to increase transportation asset utilization, optimize freight transport modes, and reduce demand for freight transport.
Thirdly, the climate-neutral products.
LANXESS is expanding its range of climate-neutral products and solutions with low CO2 footprint. Since fall 2021, these products have been given a new brand label, “Scopeblue”. Products include trimethylolpropane (TMP), about half of which is made from sustainable raw materials, or the composite Tepex, which is based on flax and lactic acid. In the medium term, LANXESS aims to offer low carbon and climate-neutral alternatives to all its products. In the long term, the goal is to have exclusively climate-neutral products in its portfolio by 2050. LANXESS also wants to quantify the carbon footprint of all its products.
Achieving climate neutrality by 2040
For direct emissions from production (scope 1) and emissions from purchased energy (scope 2), LANXESS set its ambitious goal of becoming climate neutrality by 2040, three years ago. Matthias Zachert said: "As a global specialty chemicals company, we will unswervingly fulfill our responsibilities and plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2040. At the same time, we will act as a sustainable partner for our customers in the future."
LANXESS is taking a three-pronged approach to become climate-neutral by 2040.
Firstly, launch major impact projects for climate protection
Over the next few years, LANXESS will put several special projects into action to significantly lower greenhouse gases. For example, the group is currently building a facility for the decomposition of nitrous oxide at its Antwerp, Belgium, site. The new facility is expected to reduce 450 000 t/a of CO2 by 2024, among which the first nitrous oxide reducing plant has been in operation since 2021 and reduced 150 000 t/a of CO2 and the second one will be constructed in the middle of 2022 and reduce 300 000 t/a of CO2.
Secondly, decouple emissions and growth:
LANXESS is on a good growth course. However, despite increasing production volumes, emissions of greenhouse gases in the individual business units are set to decline. In addition to improving technological efficiency, changes to governance instruments play an important role, with the impact on the group’s carbon footprint becoming an investment criterion for organic growth and acquisitions. This gives business units that achieve better than average reductions in greenhouse gas emissions a direct financial advantage. Moreover, lowering CO2 emission will be introduced as an assessment criterion in the bonus system for managers.
Thirdly, strengthen process and technological innovations:
LANXESS is revising many of its existing production processes in order to become climate-neutral by 2040. For example, the group will continue to improve its “Verbund” structures, e.g., when it comes to heat exchange between plants and air purification. Other procedures must first be developed on an industrial scale. The group is therefore focusing its research more closely towards climate neutral process and technological innovation.
Since it was founded, LANXESS has made substantial progress on its way to become more environmentally friendly. Between 2004 and 2018, the group halved its greenhouse gas emissions from around 6.5 million metric tons of CO2 emission to about 3.2 million metric tons, with a 50 percent decrease. Substantial contribution came from a nitrous oxide reduction plant in Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany, commissioned in 2009. The group has also carried out numerous other projects to lower emissions at its sites around the world and supports local initiatives to tackle climate change.Between 2018 and 2021, LANXESS halved its greenhouse gas emissions from around 3.177 million metric tons of CO2 emission to about 2.591 million metric tons, with an annual decrease of 7%. The group barely generated additional emissions even with increased production and acquisitions.
Green solutions help the industrial chain reduce carbon emissions
Over the years, LANXESS has been focusing on the development of low-carbon solutions, and has launched a number of green products in various fields such as processing agents, polyurethane (PU), and polyamide.
In processing agents, LANXESS has successfully developed a new plant-based product, Aktiplast PP-veg, for Aktiplast PP, a processing agent that widely used in the production of tires and various industrial rubber products. Aktiplast PP-veg is manufactured only from vegetable oils. The proportion of renewable raw materials in Aktiplast PP-veg is around 90 percent, so that its CO2 footprint is significantly reduced. The starting point is raw materials made from the fruits of oil palms. They are ecologically more sustainable than coconut palms, rapeseed or sunflowers, as they provide by far the highest oil yield per hectare of farmland area.
In polyurethane (PU), LANXESS has developed a new range of MDI polyether prepolymers containing renewable, bio-based raw materials. Marketed under the brand name Adiprene Green, the products are suitable as replacement for existing fossil based polyether prepolymers to manufacture highly durable polyurethane (PU) elastomers. Depending on the concrete system of polyurethane (PU), a reduction of CO2 between 20 to 30 percent is possible compared to fossil based polyether prepolymers due to the use of polyether polyols based on starch. The share of bio-based raw materials varies between 30 to 90 percent dependent on the targeted system hardness. Adiprene Green prepolymers are easy to handle – they are processed in an identical manner to conventional prepolymers. No modifications to material handling, process temperatures or mixing ratios are necessary. In addition, the reactivity profile and demolding times are similar to fossil based polyether prepolymers.
In addition, LANXESS has developed a hot cast and cold cure system for polyurethane (PU) cast elastomers. With this new technology, a Vibrathane MDI ether prepolymer can be cured with a novel Vibracure curative at room temperature, driving ease of use, energy savings, EH&S improvement and, last but not least, a significant reduction of CO2 emissions.Energy consumption has always drawn much attention from polyurethane processors as it accounts for a significant proportion of the total manufacturing costs. Depending on the polyurethane plant set up, this system can drive savings up to 40 to 50% of the total energy consumption.
LANXESS is increasingly making use of recycled raw materials in the production of its thermoplastic compounds and composites. In line with this strategy, LANXESS has recently launched three kinds of polyamide 6 compounds: Durethan ECOBKV30H2.0, ECOBKV35H2.0 and ECOBKV60XF. Recycled fibers manufactured from waste glass make up 30%, 35% and 60% by weight respectively of these three new polyamide 6 compounds. Ecocycle, an independent inspection company, has examined the amount of recycled material in each compound and the long-term use of the glass waste stream using the mass balance method and awarded an ecoloop certificate in accordance with ISO 14021:2016. The glass comes from waste left over from glass fiber production (post-industrial recycling).
“We want to help make the switch from a throw-away society to a circular economy. Our goal is to make more and more of our plastic products sustainable so that we can make our growth less dependent on the consumption of finite resources, improve our carbon footprint and protect the environment,” explains Dr. Guenter Margraf, global product manager at the company’s High Performance Materials (HPM) business unit.
In addition to directly helping downstream users reduce their carbon footprint, LANXESS also plays a synergistic role in the field of building energy efficiency. Building insulation is an efficient and simple way to save energy and thus contribute to climate protection. The building insulation industry mainly adopts expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS). These materials are flammable, and flame retardants need to be added to meet fire safety requirements. At present, the small molecule flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) is still used in polystyrene foam. HBCD was required to be banned globally and as the deadline approaches, it is urgent to find a reliable alternative. As a macromolecular product, Emerald Innovation? 3000, a polymeric flame retardant, is difficult to penetrate the cell wall into the human body, hence boasting low toxicity and high sustainability. On May 12, 2021, LANXESS co-hosted the Polymeric Flame Retardant Symposium in Shanghai together with the China Association of Building Energy Efficiency (CABEE), DuPont, ICL, Shandong Sunris New Materials, and FUDATEC. All gathered to discuss how to better promote the replacement of the traditional flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) with new environmental-friendly flame retardants.
As low-carbon development has become the core competitiveness of chemical companies, specialty chemicals company LANXESS has not only fulfilled its responsibility to reduce its own carbon footprint, but also played an increasingly irreplaceable role in helping downstream customers reduce carbon footprint. With its excellence in sustainability, LANXESS placed first in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) Europe in the “Chemicals” category, scoring 87 out of 100 points.