Converting XPS foam production from F-gases to climate-friendly CO2 technology
Title: Converting XPS foam production in China from F-gases to climate-friendly CO2 technology
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environmental Protection, Foreign Economic Cooperation Office (MEP/FECO)
Overall term: 2008 to 2013
China’s rapid economic development has led to a boom in construction. The need for building insulation materials – such as extruded polystyrene (XPS), a synthetic rigid foam – is rising by approximately 40 per cent each year.
The XPS sector in China consists of around 500 small and medium-sized enterprises. To date, the manufacture of XPS foam boards has been carried out using climate-damaging and ozone-depleting gases, so-called HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons, synthetically produced gases). Each year, thousands of tonnes of these gases escape uncontrolled into the atmosphere, thereby contributing not only to the destruction of the ozone layer, but also to global warming.
Under the Montreal Protocol, China, like all other signatories, is required to stabilise its consumption of HCFCs by 2013 and to reduce this gradually from 2015 onwards. China is therefore extremely interested in the introduction of suitable alternative technologies. New regulations mean that viable alternatives are gradually being introduced across the whole country.
A nominated company has installed a production line for XPS foam insulation using the natural propellant CO2 in place of fluorinated propellant gases that harm the climate. The company's experiences are passed on to other companies in the sector with a view to spreading the technology throughout the country.
Working in conjunction with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), the company BeiPeng was selected as the project’s industry partner. BeiPeng agreed to finance part of the production line itself. Following a public tender, the German company Berstorff was commissioned to provide the technology. The extrusion line became operational in May 2010, and production was then adapted to the local raw materials, including the use of recycled materials. An extensive training programme for the company’s workforce ensures that the plant operates smoothly.
Following the granting of additional funding for the project in August 2010, two universities were equipped with laboratory and training equipment for the CO2 technology. By 2012, the universities had installed the equipment using their own funding, and the facilities are now operational. As a result, resources are available for research and teaching, so as to develop extensive training programmes for the sector as a whole and use the applied research to carry out the necessary improvements to products and processes.
Results achieved so far
Simply by equipping this one plant (with an annual production capacity of 4,320 tonnes of insulation foam) with the climate-friendly CO2 technology, approximately 1.6 million tonnes CO2 equivalent can be avoided each year in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
The experiences gained from this project have prompted the MEP to switch to CO2 technology for this sector of industry. As part of its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, China is planning to convert a total of 43 XPS producers to the ozone and climate-friendly technology by 2015. By mid-2013, 11 companies operating a total of 23 production lines had agreed to introduce the new technology. Once these companies have converted their production to the CO2 technology, the annual reduction in greenhouse gases will be approximately 60 million tonnes CO2 equivalent.
The interest in the climate-friendly technology is considerable. Berstorff has since been commissioned for another project in China and further production lines have been ordered from Chinese producers, for example Tiande and Feininger. The fact that Chinese producers are receiving orders is evidence that this technology has been successfully transferred to China.
The setting up of an independent industry association to cover XPS is a result of the advisory work carried out under the project. The association has been established by its umbrella association, the China Plastics Processing Industry Association (CPPIA). The work of the XPS association will focus on improving coordination and harmonisation between XPS producers. The aim is for the technology to also establish itself in other companies and industries and for technical standards to be both adhered to and developed further.