Home base in Leverkusen
More than 3,800 employees work for Covestro in Leverkusen in administration, research and production. They ensure safe, environmentally friendly and highly efficient operation with outstanding commitment and broad expertise. New technologies and processes are used in the large production facilities at the site. These help make processes even more efficient.
At the same time, Covestro's innovations set new standards for sustainability – even beyond the company's own boundaries. Since 2015, Covestro has invested around 755 million euros in its plants in order to further ensure that Leverkusen remains a successful production site long-term.
Alongside the other two NRW sites in Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen, the plant in Leverkusen represents around 30 percent of global production capacity of Covestro. The three locations have formed a site network since 2010. They are all located within 70 kilometers of one another and organize maintenance, infrastructure, logistics, warehousing and services. This results in more streamlined processes, more efficient production and better cost-competitiveness.
Birthplace of high-tech plastics
Leverkusen is also home to research laboratories and an upscaling plant. At the 3D laboratory, filaments, powders and resins for 3D printing are developed and tested. Everything started with one outstanding innovation. Around eight decades ago, chemist Otto Bayer discovered the plastic polyurethane in Leverkusen, a material that is now essential in many everyday applications.
We use it everyday as a soft foam, in the form of mattresses, soft furniture and vehicle seats. As a rigid foam, it is used in home insulation to keep heat outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. It ensures that the food in our refrigerators stays fresh. Polyurethane also serves as the basis for the coatings, adhesives, and sealants required in many different sectors such as the automotive industry and the construction sector.
Covestro's Leverkusen site specializes in these applications. In addition, production also focuses on manufacturing basic chemicals, such as chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and hydrogen, which serve as the precursors for 80 percent of the company's own products.
The Leverkusen site has received the internationally recognized ISCC Plus mass balance certification in 2022 (ISCC: International Sustainability and Carbon Certification). This enables the company to supply its customers with large product volumes made from renewable attributed raw materials. The selected polycarbonates, components for polyurethane (PU) coatings and adhesive raw materials are characterized by equally good quality and properties as their fossil-based counterparts.
With the mass balance certification, Covestro is taking another important step towards circular economy. The company has an ambitious goal: to become climate neutral by 2035 and achieve net zero emissions for Scope 1 and Scope 2. The certification enables full transparency of the sustainable supply chain and additionally reduces greenhouse gas emissions through the use of bio-based and recycled raw materials.
Leverkusen, a hotbed of innovation, focuses on generating new ideas just like Covestro does as a whole. There, products and processes are continuously improved, developed, and tested under real-life conditions in collaboration with external partners and customers. The examples of our collaborative ventures, such as bio-based anilines, are manifold.
Aniline is a true all-around performer in the chemical industry and an important raw material used in medications, dyes and plastics. Normally, it is produced from crude oil. However, working with an external partner, Covestro has now succeeded in manufacturing aniline entirely from renewable raw materials. If further testing is successful, one day this material could be used as an important component in manufacturing rigid polyurethane foam in a manner that is both climate and environmentally friendly.
Soft polyurethane foam used in products like mattresses is another example of the company's innovations. A procedure was developed in Leverkusen which uses a foam component with up to 20 percent carbon dioxide (CO₂) instead of crude oil. This also protects the environment and saves resources. The neighboring plant in Dormagen operates a system that produces CO₂-based polyurethane precursors.
3D printing is a pioneering technology with enormous potential. This method can be used to manufacture three-dimensional parts that are often highly complex in a single step. The process is used for rapid prototyping as well as for producing single high-value parts in many industrial sectors today. Industries that employ 3D printing include aerospace, biomedicine, automobiles and textiles.
However, thus far, 3D printing has not been a good choice for series production of functional components. The technology is still too expensive and there are not enough construction materials available. After all, 3D printing has to fulfill multiple criteria at once, such as hardness, flexibility, transparency and heat resistance. Product designers worldwide continue to search for a versatile mix of materials.
That’s where Covestro comes into play. The company runs its own 3D printing laboratory in Leverkusen. The expert team working there offers broad expertise and experience. They are developing new material solutions and testing them under real-world conditions together with partners. The team is enjoying some success – such as in its development of special 3D printed products made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). These can be used to 3D print shoes, for instance, that are made from only one single material. This greatly simplifies the recycling process at the end of the product's life cycle and represents a major bonus in terms of sustainability. This is just one reason Covestro is committed to continue advancing 3D printing. The goal is to market an even broader spectrum of industrial applications.
Covestro is advancing the circular economy. The company has developed a new process for the chemical recycling of flexible polyurethane (PU) foam from used mattresses. It is currently tested in a pilot plant at the company’s site in Leverkusen. The aim is to validate laboratory results, optimize the process and develop products and applications on a small industrial scale.
The innovative chemolysis process builds on Covestro’s participation in the PUReSmart project. It allows the mattress foam to be broken down into its two main PU components. The recovered polyol as well as toluene diamine (TDA), a precursor of toluene diisocyanate (TDI), can then be further processed. In this way, the used mattresses are recirculated and given a second life through chemical recycling.
With chemical recycling, plastics are broken down chemically into their original molecular forms so that they can be processed into entirely new plastic materials. It is the only way to recycle certain plastics in relevant quantities. There is an increasing demand for new developments in this area - and this is where Covestro can apply its core chemical expertise.
An important step towards a closed recycling loop. This not only opens up new business areas, but also makes a significant contribution to more sustainable waste management and to protecting the climate and the Environment.
Digitalization is an important driver of innovation in the chemical industry. Industry 4.0 marks the start of a new era for companies in the sector. Covestro is actively seizing the opportunities offered by digitization. In Leverkusen, the company is using digital technologies in many of its production facilities to unlock new efficiency potential.
Covestro has just installed state-of-the-art cell voltage measurement devices using fiber optic technology in its chlorine production – a real upgrade for the 3,000 electrolysis elements. They produce around 360,000 metric tons of chlorine annually. New MODA boxes now further increase the efficiency. The boxes are attached to the electrolyzers and connected to each of the 3,000 elements. Nothing remains hidden, not even the smallest deviations from the specified values.
They transmit signals to the computer via high-performance fiber optic cables. Software specially developed for this process then checks the electrical pulses within milliseconds and evaluates them. This is how the digital future looks like at the Covestro site in Leverkusen. Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen are also to receive the "digital upgrade" soon.
The new headquarters completed in the fall of 2020 demonstrates the importance of the Leverkusen site for Covestro. The building offers space for around 700 employees and allows them to work in excellent conditions.
Covestro – A good neighbor
Living together in harmony is very important to Covestro. This is why the company actively seeks out dialog and maintains close contacts with neighbors at its production sites. At Covestro, safety comes first. The company is dedicated to reducing risks for our employees and neighbors and to ensuring safe production processes. Additional information is available on the Chempark Leverkusen website.