Combining sustainability with high-performance

Coatings are an integral part of much of our world and everyday life. They keep our cars looking new, protect the surfaces in our homes, and help industrial and construction sites resist the elements.  

However, many of today’s coatings solutions use petrochemical-based ingredients in their key components, including their binders, pigments, and additives.

Based on current estimates, we may run out of fossil fuels in under 150 years, which is only about 420 years since we started using them to light our houses and streets. Thirty years later, it’s predicted that we’ll see the end of the “Fossil Fuel Age”.

Therefore, it’s never been a better time to transition from non-renewable fossil resources to renewable, bio-based solutions. With a continually expanding portfolio of bio-based solutions from renewable raw materials, BASF is prepared for the growing demand for more sustainable, renewable solutions.

Biomass and bio-based

Going green isn’t a straightforward process, as different raw materials require different processing capabilities and requirements. 

BASF uses two unique approaches that both incorporate renewable materials into the value chain, but in different places.

The biomass approach works by offsetting fossil feedstocks used at the upstream end of the Verbund production (cracker) with renewable feedstock that has been sourced in a sustainable manner (usually bio-gas or bio-naphtha).

A bio-based approach, however, uses only renewable raw materials to create the finished product and requires dedicated assets such as reactors and pipelines to create the bio-based end product.

“The bio-based approach focuses on the raw materials that the resins are made of, while biomass, by definition, is the total mass of bio renewable content in a given area of volume,” says Susana Porzio, Technical Specialist at BASF.

Since it remains a challenge to fully replace fossil feedstocks in every formulation, a combination of biomass balance and bio-based manufacturing provides an attainable and realistic strategy for optimizing sustainability.

Sustainability and performance, combined

Just because a solution is based on renewable content doesn’t mean it can’t perform as well as its fossil-based counterpart.

SOVERMOL®, for example, is a polyol designed to be used in combination with isocyanates as a reactive component for 2-pack polyurethane systems, and brings excellent UV, weathering and chemical resistance to industrial coatings.

As a bio-based solvent-free polyol, it can be made from different types of natural oils, including rapeseed oil, castor oil, soybean oil, and palm kernel oil, and can be used in coatings for a variety of applications, from concrete and wood floors to furniture, metal, and even wind turbine blades.

“One of the key properties of SOVERMOL is its combination of hydrophobicity and hydrolysis stability, meaning it combines two different types of chemistries in one molecule,” says Porzio. “The polyether characteristics give it hydrolysis stability in the presence of water or humidity, while the polyester characteristic gives it hydrophobic properties.”

JONCRYL® 9522 is another bio-based resin that boasts approximately 20% C14 renewable content, and works to prevent knot bleeding in wood furniture applications.

C14, or carbon-14, is an isotope that is determined after an analysis to identify the origin of an ethanol sample. Bioethanol, for example, contains a variable percentage of C14 content, whereas petroleum-derived ethanol does not.

“We have over 50 products right now that have bio-containing C-14 traceable content, and we will continue to expand that portfolio,” says Diana Rowe, Business Manager at BASF. “That's been an ongoing R&D focus of ours.”

Closing the loop

With this ever-expanding portfolio of bio-based resins, BASF is aiming to help achieve the sustainability goals of customers and ourselves. As creators of sustainable chemistry, we’re aiming to reduce our absolute CO2 emissions by 25% by 2030, and achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“BASF has a multi-pronged approach to sustainability, and we look at bio-based products as a way to reduce the carbon footprint of the output of our product and enable our customers to achieve that as well,” says Rowe. “It's really about thinking creatively about how we can make our products with different raw materials that ultimately lower the impact to the environment.”

The demand for these low-impact materials have never been higher, as manufacturers around the world aim to improve the sustainability of their products, and as government agencies introduce new legislation, such as the European Green Deal to challenge climate change and environmental degradation.

It’s important to remember that increased sustainability doesn’t mean compromised performance, which remains a common misconception that BASF is working to challenge.

“When introducing more green or sustainable products, performance needs to be top of mind,” says Rowe. “We don't put anything into the market unless it has performance that’s on par, if not better, than the fossil-based solution. Now we're looking at how to bring down the cost of those solutions to make it more viable for a larger market introduction and making it the standard.”

Learn more about BASF’s bio-based solutions

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