Three questions for…Karen Perrey

Karen Perrey is a chemical engineer at Covestro. She is working on ensuring that the company‘s sites all over the world are consistently converted to use alternative raw materials, eco-friendly processes and green energy.

Karen Perrey is a chemical engineer at Covestro.

Ms. Perrey, you are currently featured on the posters of the IN4climate.NRW initiative. You advocate using environmentally friendly processes in your company; what does that mean in practical terms?

Of course, I am not the only person working on this subject at Covestro. We want to align ourselves completely with the circular economy and make production climate neutral in the long term. This requires all areas of the company to be involved. The process research department is working on improving the production process for instance. Among other things, this has allowed us to introduce the particularly energy-efficient oxygen-depolarised cathode for the production of chlorine* – using this, the process consumes up to 30 per cent less electricity compared to conventional processes. The switchover to the gas phase process also allows us to save energy, e.g. up to 60 per cent for TDI production** compared to conventional facilities.

Our company’s Energy Efficiency Team addresses issues in all our facilities around the world, while the Circular Economy Team is working meticulously on developing new technology for recycling. Our department views the company locations as a whole, focusing on all the emissions of our production sites, from energy supply right up to distribution and logistics. We look for ways of constantly reducing emissions. Important levers in this respect are the raw materials and energy sources we choose, the energy-efficient integration of processes and the implementation of new forms of technology.

 

What needs to happen in practical terms to ensure that the chemical sector and industry in general will be climate neutral by 2050?

The availability of large quantities of renewable energy at internationally competitive prices is key to climate neutrality. Particularly in the chemical industry, a very large proportion of emissions are energy-related. The path towards climate neutrality is extremely challenging, above all because there are still a lot questions unanswered regarding the general framework. What will the future supply of energy and raw materials look like? Will we still have access to the raw materials that we currently use and, if not, what other freely available and competitive alternative raw materials will we have to get accustomed to? What kind of processes (apart from recycling processes) do we need to develop? It is these questions that we are trying to tackle and answer in the course of our work.

 

Why is this subject important to you on a personal level?

The environment is very close to my heart. When I see the dead spruce forests in the hill country known as the Bergisches Land, it pains me – it is a matter of our securing our livelihood. Our planet is not well, to put it mildly. We have to take action against this, both on a personal and on a professional level. That’s where my motivation and conviction come from.

 

* Chlorine is one of the most important raw materials in the chemical industry and is used via various intermediates, e.g. in the production of plastics or medicines. About 3.7 million tonnes are produced in Germany every year.

** TDI (toluene-2 4-diisocyanate) is an important intermediate for the chemical industry that is used to produce soft foam, e.g. for upholstered furniture, mattresses or car seats.