BASF’s BDO and PolyTHF with lower carbon footprints

From early 2024 onward, German chemical firm BASF says it will offer its products 1,4-butanediol (BDO) and polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF) as “LowPCF” products. BASF has calculated the individual product carbon footprints (PCF) of both chemical products. The results were compared with assessments of market-wide average carbon footprints of the corresponding products of third parties.

It says the analysis shows that due to BASF’s production setup, the PCFs of BDO and derivatives such as PolyTHF are significantly below the global average PCF of the corresponding third-party chemicals that are all produced from fossil-based raw materials.

On its journey to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, BASF claims it is the first large chemical company to make available to its customers the individual PCFs of all its sales products. The PCF comprises the total greenhouse gas emissions that occur until the product leaves BASF’s factory gate for the customer: from the extraction of resources through manufacturing of precursors to the making of the final chemical product itself.

The PCF is determined by various factors. For example, energy generation in BASF’s own gas-fired combined heat and power plants generates significantly less greenhouse gas emissions compared to other conventional energy generation methods.

In addition, production processes of LowPCF intermediates are characterised by high production efficiency in terms of energy and raw material consumption due to BASF’s integrated system and continuous efforts in operational excellence.

Finally, LowPCF intermediates generally use oil, natural gas or by-products, but not coal, as primary raw materials. Due to its chemical properties, the use of coal generally results in a higher carbon footprint of downstream products compared to those based on natural gas or oil.

“Company CO2 emission reduction targets are playing an increasingly important role in the value chains we serve. With our LowPCF intermediates, we are supporting our customers in achieving their targets: They now have the option to consciously choose a product with a carbon footprint significantly below the global market average,” said Ketan Joshi, head of BASF’s Intermediates operating division. “By making CO2 emission data at the individual product level available to our customers, we also offer a level of transparency that is unique in the chemical industry.”

BDO is mainly used for the production of PolyTHF. BASF’s customers use PolyTHF for example to produce elastic spandex and elastane fibres that are used for a wide range of textiles such as swimsuits, sportswear and underwear, but also outerwear such as shirts and stretch jeans.

PolyTHF also serves as a chemical building block for the production of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU), which BASF customers use to make highly abrasion-resistant and elastic hoses, films and cable sheathing, primarily for the automotive industry.

Other applications include thermoplastic polyetheresters, polyetheramides and cast elastomers for the manufacture of wheels, for example for skateboards and inline skates. With a total of five production plants for PolyTHF in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, BASF adds it is one of the world’s most important suppliers of this versatile intermediate.

BDO is also a starting material for polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), an engineering plastic that is used successfully (under the BASF trade name Ultradur in the automotive, electrical and electronics industries. B

DO also serves as an intermediate for the production of tetrahydrofuran (THF) and N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), whose main applications are as essential solvents in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and for lithium-ion battery cathodes e.g., for electrical vehicles.