Integration of renewable raw materials in existing production and supply chains
The use of renewable raw materials in the chemical industry, applying mass balance approaches
In the mass balance method, the volume of renewables is allocated to selected products, according to their individual formulations – i.e. taking into account all yields and losses. Presupposing technical and economic feasibility, this enables the integration of renewable resources in existing production and supply chains. The VCI position paper explains the method and provides some examples as well as “Questions & Answers”.
A tradition with potential
Renewable resources have a long tradition in the chemical industry. In fact, they were the first – and at that time also the only – inputs that could be used e.g. to produce dyestuffs or certain plastics. Today, naphtha (a mineral oil product) and natural gas are the dominant raw materials. They serve for the production of large-volume basic chemicals that account for large shares of value creation in the chemical industry. Not only plastics but also countless specialty products build on basic chemicals. But to this very day renewables – like vegetable oil, animal fat, starch or sugar – hold their own in special applications. It is worth noting that the use of renewables in the German chemical industry totals 2.7 million tonnes per annum, corresponding to ca. 13 percent of all carbon raw materials.
Take into account all aspects of sustainability in expansion
In the context of sustainability, the chemical industry is called upon to increase the use of renewable resources. The chemical industry has an interest in expanding its raw material base. Needless to say, the industry also wants to meet the wishes of its customers where they demand the use of renewable resources. Here, the requirements to sustainability have to be fulfilled. From the ecological and social perspective, this is mainly about the cultivation of biomass but there is also the economic aspect. This means that the products must be able to convince potential buyers in respect of quality and price. New, innovative products based on renewables need to be developed for this purpose. There are many successful examples, and the chemical industry keeps working intensively in research and development for new applications of renewable raw materials. To realize this objective, new value chains have to be built in interplay between various actors. However, the experiences of recent years show that this is a major challenge.
The mass balancing method
Here, the mass balancing method enters the picture. The position paper presents and explains this method. Mass balancing enables the integration of renewable raw materials in existing production and supply chains. This allows efficient and flexible processing – with the advantage that high yields and economies of scale of existing plants can be used for initially low volumes of renewables too. On the technical side, the condition for this is that the renewables have the prerequisite properties for processing. Mass balancing creates the economic basis by enabling the allocating of the used renewable raw materials to certain products. Consequently, manufacturers can state to their customers that the renewables needed for the sold products were used in production, also where the really sold product only contains a small share of them – e.g. because the renewables are distributed across all manufactured products. This approach is complex. Therefore, it is explained by way of examples and in a comprehensive catalogue of questions & answers. The position paper also wants to highlight what has to be observed for an accurate application of the method and its credible communication.
You will find the complete position paper with a volume of 13 pages in the download section at the top of this page (so-called „Langfassung").