In October 2020, the Japanese government set a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This goal needs to greatly accelerate current efforts and innovation through bold investment. To this end, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has created a fund totaling 2 trillion yen at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and launched the Green Innovation Fund Project to provide continuous support for 10 years from R&D. One of these fields is the “carbon recycling material industry”. The relevant industrial sector accounts for 29.3% (in 2019) of Japan’s total CO2 emissions. Of this, 18.6% (6 million tons per year) is emitted from the chemical industry. Therefore, carbon recycling in the chemical sector is important for Japan to become carbon neutral by 2050. In addition, most plastics are currently made from naphtha (crude gasoline) obtained from petroleum refining. If CO2 can be effectively utilized as a resource in the production of basic chemicals and functional chemicals such as polycarbonates and polyurethanes, it will lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. Furthermore, about 84% of the 8.91 million tons of waste plastic generated annually is recycled, and 57% of this is used as a heat source for power generation by incineration and cement production, while 16 million tons of CO2 are ultimately emitted annually. Therefore, it is necessary to establish chemical recycling technologies to convert waste plastics back to the original plastic raw materials.
The current project “Development of technology for manufacturing plastic raw materials using CO2” is planned for FY2021 – FY2030, with a budget of 123.4 billion yen.
The following 8 themes and 9 projects were selected for this year’s program.
1: Development of advanced technology for naphtha cracking furnaces:
We will develop an ammonia burner and a naphtha cracking furnace suitable for ammonia burners, and conduct demonstration tests on a scale of several tens of thousands of tons.
2: Development of technology for manufacturing chemicals from waste plastic and rubber
(i) We will develop chemical recycling technology to obtain basic chemical raw materials from used tires with high efficiency and yield.
(ii) We will develop technologies to produce tire materials from ethanol and plant materials with high efficiency and high yield.
(iii) We will develop a technology to produce basic chemical raw materials from polyolefin waste plastics with high efficiency and without using alcohol. We will also develop a process to catalytically produce ethanol from synthesis gas obtained from waste plastics consisting of a wide variety of components.
3: Development of technology to produce functional chemicals from CO2
(i) We will develop manufacturing technology for polyurethane and polycarbonate materials using CO2 from factory exhaust gas instead of phosgene, which is a conventional raw material.
(ii) We will develop a production process that enables the mass production of cyclic carbonates at a lower production cost, and promote the development of applications for polyurethane adhesives and epoxy substitute adhesives.
4: Development of technology for manufacturing chemicals from alcohols*5
(i) Commercialization and development of artificial photosynthesis-based chemical raw material production
(1) A hydrogen recovery system incorporating a highly active water-splitting photocatalyst, photocatalyst sheets, and hydrogen/oxygen separation module will be developed, and its feasibility will be verified at a hectare-class outdoor test facility.
(2) Develop and demonstrate basic chemical production technology from CO2
(i) Develop a methanol membrane-type reaction separation process and an innovative MTO catalyst process.
(ii) We will complete a high-efficiency synthesis process for methanol and ethanol from CO2, and develop a high-efficiency production process for olefins C3 and higher from these raw materials.