Global plastics specialist introduces innovative circular econ-omy approach

DOMO Chemicals reduces its environmental footprint by developing new products

DOMO Chemicals, the leading polyamide specialist and supplier of technical materials and highly integrated solutions from Saxony-Anhalt, manufactures polymers and chemical intermediates in Leuna. The company relies on material cycles, recycling and energy efficiency to future-proof its production processes for the benefit of its customers and the environment. The network at the Chemical Park Leuna, a center of excellence in Saxony-Anhalt, promotes innovation.

The circular process structure for caprolactam, one of the main products made by DOMO Chemicals GmbH, is an indication of the innovative approach taken by the company in the Chemical Park Leuna, where it is focusing on the circular economy. In the park, it is in close proximity to suppliers and research institutions based in the region. As part of its research and development work, DOMO Chemicals is cooperating with a variety of institutions and universities, including the nearby Merseburg University of Applied Sciences, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft at the site and a number of institutes specializing in plastics and artificial fibers, such as the Thuringian Institute for Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) in Rudolstadt.

The main product in the portfolio of DOMO Chemicals, which employs around 550 people, is polyamide 6, together with the accompanying intermediates and by-products of caprolactam synthesis, including cumene, phenol, acetone, cyclohexanone and ammonium sulfate. At the heart of the integrated production process in Leuna is caprolactam, the key intermediate for polyamide 6. Ammonium sulfate, a by-product of caprolactam synthesis, is crystallized in ultra-modern plants for use in sophisticated technical applications and is used primarily as a fertilizer.

Research into tough, lightweight plastics

The polyamide 6 base resins and technical plastics are used as raw materials in a wide range of products. DOMO supplies a number of different markets, primarily in Europe, including the automotive, food, medicine, pharmaceutical, chemical and electronics industries. The plastic products are used in functional clothing, electrical appliances and components for the automotive industry, as well as in pipes, heat insulation, carpets and furniture. In order to reduce the environmental footprint of the transport sector, research is being carried out into tough, lightweight plastics that can replace metal components in vehicles and make them lighter in weight.

The goal is full climate neutrality by 2050

The company is focusing on making its own production processes climate-neutral. In 2021, it introduced the DOMO Beyond System that sets ambitious and wide-ranging sustainability goals: minimizing environmental impact, carbon-neutral growth compared with 2019 and doubling the volume of products with a high proportion of recycled raw materials by 2030, followed by full climate neutrality by 2050.

The emphasis is on the potential for recycling materials from the chemical processes it uses. DOMO has spent the last decade developing new production technologies for manufacturing polyamides. More than three quarters of the carbon dioxide in the products comes from the purchase of raw materials.

Recycled secondary raw materials reduce the carbon footprint by up to 90 percent

On the basis of their extensive experience of manufacturing and processing sustainable polyamides, the 100 or so researchers at DOMO have developed a technology that allows secondary raw materials from the production process to be recycled into high-quality PA composites in a single-stage process. They are sold in the European Economic Area and Switzerland under the brand names ECONAMID and Technyl4Earth and will be available in all other regions of the world from February 2022. DOMO’s partnerships with film, textile and airbag manufacturers allow the company to recycle waste and residues from their processes at all its sites to make polyamides that are used in the automotive and rail industries and in pressure washers. The Technyl4Earth and ECONAMID solutions replace the majority of compounds that primary resins have been used for and therefore reduce the carbon footprint of the products by up to 90 percent.

Further investments planned in the years to come

Another of DOMO’s goals is to save energy and use more green electricity by investing in projects to increase the energy efficiency of its own production processes. The conditions in the Chemical Park Leuna are ideal for this, with InfraLeuna GmbH, for example, making an investment in expanding and modernizing a gas and steam turbine power plant. “For these reasons, the Leuna site has played an important role in the integrated production process within our group of companies since 1994. Therefore, we will be investing several million euros in the Leuna site over the next three years. Since 1994, we have already invested more than 650 million euros there,” says Luc de Raedt, CEO of DOMO Caproleuna GmbH, which is part of the DOMO Chemicals Group.

Author: Renate Wähnelt/IMG Saxony-Anhalt