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February 18, 2008
Volume 86, Number 07
p. 6


BASF Makes Bold Carbon Claim

Chemical maker says its products save more greenhouse gases than they generate

Michael McCoy

BASF, the world's largest chemical maker, says it is the world's first company to conduct a full carbon analysis of its operations. The firm's surprising conclusion: Its products save three times more greenhouse gas emissions than are created during their manufacture and disposal.

BASF says insulation materials such as its Neopor foam cut home energy consumption, thereby lowering CO2 emissions.

BASF executives detailed the findings at a press conference in Berlin last week. The company calculated the greenhouse gases emitted during the production of raw materials and precursors it buys, emitted from its own manufacturing sites, and emitted in the disposal of its products at the end of their life. It also analyzed the greenhouse gas emissions savings achieved by customers who use its products.

According to Harald Schwager, a member of BASF's board of directors, it's the extensive customer savings that allow the company to call itself greenhouse gas negative.

Using 2006 data, the company determined that 28 million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted during manufacture of the raw materials it consumes, mostly naphtha and natural gas. Its own production activities spit out 25 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, and the eventual disposal of the products it made that year, assumed to be via incineration, will emit 34 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

However, BASF looked at 90 key products and determined that customers saved more than 250 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by using them. In Berlin, Schwager gave examples such as insulation materials that lower the energy consumed in home heating, fuel additives and lightweight plastics that reduce auto fuel consumption, and catalysts that abate emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.

Derik Broekhoff, a senior member of the greenhouse gas protocol team at the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, commends BASF for taking an inventory of its emissions. Although he hasn't studied the analysis in detail, he says it appears to be the most complete he's seen from a company.

Using insulation as an example, Broekhoff says he'd like to know more about what BASF is comparing itself to when it makes CO2 savings claims: Competing products? Minimum regulatory requirements? No insulation at all? "It's the details that really matter in these calculations," he points out.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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