Cosmetic, personal care and chemical manufacturers are heavily invested in the development of a sustainable sector. It is this approach that could hold the key to unlocking positive climate strategies across the industrial manufacturing value chain. In a sector ripe for disruption, it is the major players, including oleochemical manufacturers and suppliers, who will drive momentum!
Statistics indicate that continuous innovation, research, and development is a must, with figures in The Rise of Green Cosmetics1 showing growth of up to 15%. This is being fueled by demand for high performance function-specific chemicals and environmentally sustainable products across end-use industries but is also a fantastic incentive for brand owners to invest in new product development!
To keep on top of these advances, Belgian-based Oleon is investing in strategies that will contribute toward enabling a carbon neutral Europe by 2050 in line with changing consumer, regulatory and investor pressures.2
“Sustainability is no longer a differentiator, but rather the expectation of consumers. Concepts around sustainability will become more focused from a morality perspective and consumers will demand bigger changes from companies. There is no time to waste, and industry must move beyond token gestures into hard action,” says Rune Daneels, product manager at Oleon Health and Beauty. “That is why we decided to participate with the INCITE project: to show our support and commitment to the development of novel and integrated upstream and downstream processing paths involving flow chemistry and membrane technology in the chemo-enzymatic process.”
As one of the most buoyant sectors in manufacturing, growth in ‘green’ products comes on the back of consumers moving away from products purchased purely on its perceived skin and hair care benefits to one where ingredient sourcing and manufacturing practices behind the product label is under scrutiny too.
“As oil and petrochemical prices rise rapidly, it is opening additional opportunities for renewable and bio-based chemical products that offer excellent functionality such as our bio-based esters. At Oleon, we understand these challenges and are committed to responsible sourcing of ingredients, adopting sustainable packaging, and investing in research and development for new and sustainable solutions,” she notes.
Manufacturers must focus on providing innovative and custom-made products that can offer targeted applications in the beauty and personal care markets. “Our involvement in the INCITE project allows us to focus on developing these state-of-the-art specialty chemicals that will cater to expanding product requirements and products derived from renewable plants and enzymes are the ideal fit,” Rune points out.
Oleon & INCITE – working toward a greener future
The chemical industry represents one of the largest sectors worldwide and its emission- and environmental impacts are significant.
As non-renewable resources become depleted and environmental regulations become stricter, the need for sustainable substitutes is intensifying, coupled to the challenges around the availability of raw materials and manufacturing demand for ‘green’ chemicals.3
The main goal of the INCITE project is to bring about the effective industrial implementation of intensified enzymatic process technologies in the fine and speciality chemical industry in Europe through biocatalytic conversion to demonstrate the applications of chemoenzymatic reactions at an industrial scale.
Dirk Packet, Research Director at Oleon agrees, “The modularity and flexibility of the processes developed in conjunction with the INCITE project will be showcased through two demonstration cases in real industrial settings. Compared to traditional chemical synthesis processes, these chemo-enzymatic processes have clear advantages of greater efficiency, higher product quality and a smaller environmental impact.”
There are numerous benefits during chemo-enzymatic production processes. One of the biggest is that a flexible, simple, and modular enzymatic esterification system shows a 50% reduction in CAPEX by easing the integration of new materials in current installations.
It also impacts on productivity and yield with a 20% productivity increase compared to the base case by using immobilized enzymes and the in-situ removal of inhibitory by-products such as water. OPEX is also reduced by 50% by using lower temperatures and pressure during operation; with a further saving of at least 15% by the reduction in solvent and utilities.
“One of the biggest energy savings and ‘green’ benefits we see by using enzymatic esterification is that you can expect a waste reduction of up to 60% compared to standard processing, as less reagents are used. You can also expect a 70% energy saving when compared to the original system by implementing changes in upstream and downstream processes. Coupled to an enormous 75% reduction in greenhouse process safety gas emissions, which is accrued through lowering operating temperatures from 210 to 65°C, it results in a win-win for both the manufacturing industry and the environment,” Rune points out.
“Until very recently, the chemical manufacturing industry had a less than stellar environmental record with a significant negative effect on our environmental legacy. Redeveloping traditional and established manufacturing and production practices by implementing INCITE’s process technology, we can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable chemistry,” she concludes.
First launched in September 2019, the INCITE project is projected to run over 52 months to December 2023 with a budget from the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme of €13.3mn.
INCITE aims to accelerate a transition to a more flexible and sustainable chemistry by implementing novel integrated upstream and downstream processing. The project involves flow chemistry and membrane technology in two chemo-enzymatic demonstration cases at an industrial level. Globally, the project is expected to positively impact the environment by drastically reducing the energy and carbon dioxide emission. It will also greatly reduce raw materials requirements (including hazardous organic solvents) alongside cutting down waste production, compared to traditional chemical synthesis.