The Context

Catalyst for change – Towards a competitive European chemical industry

According to the CEFIC Chemdata international, Europe is the second largest chemicals producer in the world, generating sales worth € 594 billion. Being not only a vital part of the European economy, the chemicals industry is also a major supplier for key industries, such as energy, transport, health, housing, among other sectors.

Around 90% of chemical processes and 60% of all industrial products rely on a catalytic process in their manufacturing process. Due to their capacity to reduce energy consumption and increase the yield of desired products through faster, more effective and selective reactions catalysts are vital to the chemical industry and the industrial research. These chemical reactions rely on metals linked to the catalytic activity, most of them labelled as Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) by the European Commission, due to their strategic economic position and high supply risk.

PGMs table

As a result of high energy and raw material utilisation, the current production and the recycling of catalysts mainly rely on processes that are neither sustainable nor economically feasible. Europe is a leader in catalyst technology and therefore the largest PGMs consumer. With the European chemical industry competitiveness threatened by the minerals supply shortages, increasing domestic metal recycling is of utmost importance.

Greening the European chemical industry

Electrification has potential to decarbonise the chemical industry. When powered by renewable energy (RES), electrochemical processes reduce the carbon footprint, which makes them more sustainable compared to the conventional thermochemical routes.

The FIREFLY project is the first initiative that sets out to steer the catalyst-based chemical industry towards sustainable electrification and to reduce third-party dependence on metals and fossil energy.