‘Last year we worked on a road map for AkzoNobel’s green chemistry,’ says Jos Keurentjes, Director of Technology in AkzoNobel and a Technical University Eindhoven professor. ‘We have already reached a level of 9% renewables in our feedstock. That is exceptionally high, chemical industry’s average is at 3%.
Especially surfactants and cellulose derivatives, which we use as viscosity modifiers, contribute to this. The renewable content in our coatings is on the rise. In this latter product category there is still a lot of work to do, e.g. in the fields of solvents and of resins.’
Better sustainability in the complete product chain
‘Improvement on sustainability in our chemical production appears to be a viable pathway. Sustainability issues have risen to the level of the board, and now in fact constitute our ‘license to operate’. Our customers request sustainability, and from the demand side the whole chain is becoming greener so to speak, although improvement on the sustainability score is mainly achieved from the front end of the value chain. We call that Cradle2Gate, a variation on Cradle2Cradle. It means to say that products leaving the factory have as low a carbon footprint as possible: we stimulate our suppliers to supply us with a feedstock as sustainable as possible, and we process them in a sustainable way. Moreover, together with our clients we work on sustainability improvement in the way our products are used. We testify to the fact that big chemistry can indeed improve its sustainability score. For instance in our paint production, one of the main sectors in AkzoNobel. Paint consists of pigments, solvents and polymer binding agents. It is quite possible to lower the footprint of all those components. For instance, we investigate the production of binding agents using algae. And we look into many more ways to improve on our sustainability scores.’
Among other things, AlzoNobel tries to develop a completely new resource chemistry starting from carbon dioxide. From CO2, in principle everything can be produced, but it is quite a challenge to use that problematic waste product as a feedstock for chemical production. Jos Keurentjes: ‘For a long time, carbon dioxide chemistry was very unattractive for energy reasons, but times have changed and such chemistry might well emerge. At AkzoNobel, too.’