Alta awarded €60m EU support for CO2 to chemicals project

Zeeland-based ALTA Group (ALTA) has announced that it will receive a subsidy worth €58.5m ($62.7m) from the EU’s Just Transition Fund (JTF) for a project that aims to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from industrial processes into valuable chemicals.

The economy of Zeelandic Flanders in the north-eastern part of Flanders (which lies mostly in Belgium) relies heavily on fossil fuel-intensive industry.

By capturing, storing, and converting CO2 into chemicals such as cyclic carbonates, the region could reduce carbon emissions and greenify the chemical industry.

What are cyclic carbonates?

Cyclic carbonates are synthesised by reacting CO2 or urea with polys or through the oxidative carboxylation of olefins.

They can then be used in industry as polar solvents, precursors for polycarbonate materials, electrolytes in lithium batteries, in the production of pharmaceuticals and as raw materials in various chemical reactions.

Having invested heavily in research into chemical processes that can contribute to a circular economy, Alta has outlined its mission to make the chemical industry ‘substantially greener’.

The company has developed a chemical technology capable of converting CO2 and epoxides – a petrochemical by-product – into an important raw material for lithium-ion batteries.

Alta plans to demonstrate the production method and safely test and validate the cyclic carbonate production process at a pilot plant in Valuepark Terneuzen.

3D rendering of the Alta plant

“In this pilot, process data is measured and analysed so that the process can be accurately modelled, and we can scale up further safely,” said Frank Vergunst, founder of Alta.

“This project is an essential step in the development that an innovation in the chemical industry must go through in order to arrive at a commercially viable end product.”

To advance the project further, it has also received funding from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate worth €1.8m ($1.9m).

Equipped with a total budget of €630m ($675m) for the Netherlands, the JTF aims to reduce the social and economic costs resulting from the transition to the EU’s 2030 climate target and EU climate neutral economy by 2050.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), some 230m tonnes of CO2 are used every year. The largest consumer is the fertiliser industry, where 130Mt CO2 is used in irea manufacturing, followed by oil and gas for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

Although new pathways involving the transformation of CO2 into fuels, chemicals and building are attracting increasing interest, most are still in their infancy and face commercial and regulatory challenges.

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