ICIS Innovation Awards 2014


A near-record number of entries this year has been reduced to a short-list of three or four entries in each category (except Best Business Innovation, where the judges decided not to short-list anyone).

Final judging takes place on 4 September and winners will be announced on 20 October in ICIS Chemical Business.

Congratulations to all who have made it this far.


Best Product Innovation

Sponsored by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
Heat-generating material for on-purpose olefin production

Houdry technology for dehydrogenating alkanes to alkenes is receiving much interest because of the supply-demand gap for C3 and higher olefins. Technology owner Clariant has developed a new concept – a Heat Generating Material (HGM) - in the form of a metal oxide on a proprietary carrier that is loaded into the catalyst bed. This HGM is inert towards the feedstock but undergoes oxidation and reduction during the Houdry operating cycle, producing heat inside the catalyst bed which reduces the quantity that has to be supplied and also establishes a more favourable catalyst bed temperature profile that increases olefin selectivity and reduces by-product formation. The decreased operating severity reduces stress on both catalyst and equipment. The overall process improvement reduces the carbon footprint of a typical unit by several 10,000 tonnes/year of CO2 and increases olefin yield by several per cent.

Solvay Group - Rhodia
Emana - a polyamide fibre that emits far-infrared radiation

The textile apparel market is always seeking innovations. Solvay’s Emana is a patented polyamide fibre that emits radiation in the far-infrared (FIR), bringing well-being benefits in the cosmetic and sports performance segments of the textile industry. Emana is based on specially treated inorganic charges embedded in the polymeric matrix of the microfibre filaments. These charges emit FIR in specific wavelengths, promoting biostimulation in the skin, thus acting as a fibroblasts growth factor and stimulating nitric oxide synthesis which significantly enhances microcirculation. In the cosmeto-textile area, Emana garments improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of cellulite. In the sportswear sector, Emana helps athletes to reduce muscle fatigue and have a faster muscle recovery. The benefits have been demonstrated in scientific tests performed in universities and independent research institutes and in four years of extensive clinical trials.

Infinergy – World’s first expanded particle foam based on thermoplastic polyurethanes

With Infinergy, BASF has introduced the world’s first particle foam based on expanded thermoplastic polyurethanes. The combination of extraordinary mechanical properties and easy processing with an available technology make the material unique. Infinergy offers unprecedented unknown high-energy return with excellent tensile and flexural characteristics. As a result, Infinergy is being used as the main sole component of Adidas’s new Boost running shoe series, brought to market shortly after its development at BASF. Numerous additional applications are planned, for instance, in the leisure, sports and packaging sectors.


Best Process Innovation

Atol - innovative technology for bioethylene production

Atol, the result of a partnership between Axens, Total and IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN), is a technology for production of polymer-grade bioethylene by dehydration of first and/or second generation renewable ethanol. Total developed a high performance catalyst formulation at its research centre in Feluy, Belgium; IFPEN scaled-up the catalyst performance within an innovative heat recovery process; and Axens industrialised the catalyst formulation and finalised the process scheme with particular focus on energy efficiency. Atol relies on a new type of catalyst, providing high activity and a high selectivity toward ethylene, thus maximising carbon efficiency and significantly reducing bioethylene production cost. The Atol catalyst provides high hydrothermal stability and high tolerance to poisons allowing it to cope with variations in feedstock quality. The caustic tower and ethane/ethylene splitter used in the conventional process are eliminated in the Atol process.

Honeywell UOP/INEOS/Total
Advanced methanol-to-olefins (MTO) process

Honeywell UOP’s Advanced MTO process, developed with INEOS and Total, produces propylene and ethylene from methanol. UOP scientists were the first to apply the discovery of SAPO-34, a new molecular sieve, in the 1980s to MTO chemistry. UOP continued development with partner INEOS (Norsk Hydro at the time), which operated the first 1 tonne/day demonstration unit in 1995. This technology relied heavily on UOP’s fluidised bed reactor design. In the mid-1990s, UOP worked with Total on a technology for conversion of naphtha-range olefins to ethylene and propylene. Total started the first Olefin Conversion Process (OCP) demonstration plant in Antwerp in 1998. MTO and OCP have since been integrated into a single Advanced MTO design. The first UOP-licensed MTO/OCP complex was successfully started up in 2013 by Wison, in Nanjing, China.

Contract Chemicals/Bayer Technology Services/Bayer CropScience
Collaborative real time process development through reaction modelling

An innovative collaboration between Contract Chemicals, Bayer CropScience and Bayer Technology Services (BTS) solved the challenge of investigating a complex five-stage synthetic pathway and resulted in a late-stage intermediate for a new crop protection product. The goal was to double capacity, with lower cost, waste and impurity levels, higher throughput and reduced plant expansion costs, without compromising quality. This had to be achieved in six months to service a rapidly growing market and the agrochemical spraying season. The methodology chosen was to identify the most critical reaction stage, then combine real process and production plant data interactively with reaction modelling techniques. The reaction was proven at plant (10 tonne) scale. The result was a 60% reduction in impurities, a 30% increase in yield and a decrease in plant reaction time by 52%. This has led to a multi-year manufacturing contract – over 200 tonnes of product have now been manufactured by this process.


Best Innovation by an SME

Liquid Light
Liquid Light - process technology to convert CO2 into high-value major chemicals

US-based Liquid Light develops and licenses process technology to make major chemicals from carbon dioxide (CO2). It aims to deliver significantly lower total production cost than petrochemical-based processes while helping companies address sustainability issues. The core technology is centred on catalytic electrochemistry to convert CO2 to multi-carbon chemicals, combined with hydrogenation and purification. By adjusting the catalyst design, various chemicals can be produced. Liquid Light’s first process is for production of ethylene glycol, a key ingredient in PET. By using common co-feedstocks along with CO2, a plant may produce multiple products simultaneously. Additionally, the technology can be powered by renewable energy sources, providing an even lower footprint. The company has 14 issued patents, with 100+ pending. Results consistent with cost-advantaged production have been validated at lab scale for key parts of the process.

Sirrus - advancing manufacturing technology through chemistry

US-based Sirrus has unveiled a platform of reactive monomers based on 1,1-disubstituted alkenes and will be offering them under the Chemilian and Forza brand names. The potential of 1,1-disubstitued alkenes has been recognised for some time, but commercialisation has been elusive due to the reactive nature of the monomers and the low yields of synthetic routes. Sirrus solved these challenges by developing an economical, novel synthetic route complemented by proprietary stabilisation techniques. Products using Sirrus materials have significant advantages, including rapid polymerisation times at ambient temperatures, which dramatically reduce energy consumption. This fast, room temperature, “on demand” polymerisation is a game-changer for a wide range of manufacturing and assembly processes. The platform allows for monomers with a broad range of physical and optical properties, similar to acrylics, but includes potential for both anionic and free-radical polymerisation.

Argex Titanium
Argex technology (AT) - a third-generation process to manufacture titanium dioxide

Canada’s Argex Titanium has developed an alternative to the sulphate and chloride routes used to make titanium dioxide pigment. Its proprietary Argex Technology (AT) uses chemical and hydrometallurgical processes in a patented closed-loop technology to produce high-purity TiO2 directly from the ore material, avoiding the need to upgrade it to ilmenite. Proven equipment is used at atmospheric pressure and low temperature. At the heart of the process is a leach of the ore (ilmenite, with no limit regarding TiO2 content or tailings) with hydrochloric acid, followed by two solvent extractions: one to remove iron compounds and one to remove pure titanium compounds (TiOCl2). Argex’s technology is another step towards environmental protection due to its high energy efficiency, low emissions and closed-loop design. This uses relatively low levels of hydrochloric acid that can be regenerated after use. A pilot is running at Valleyfield, Quebec, where a production plant is under construction


Innovation With Best Benefit for the Environment or Sustainability

Sponsored by U.S. Chemicals
Huntsman Textile Effects
Revolutionary dyes confront textile industry sustainability challenges

The textile industry is a heavy user of resources, including water and energy, and its wastewater is often contaminated with salt. As a leading global provider of high quality dyes and chemicals to the industry, Huntsman Textile Effects is committed to help it meet its toughest environmental and economic challenges. The company’s revolutionary AVITERA SE range consists of tailor-made poly-reactive dyes ensuring rapid, very high exhaustion and fixation when dyeing cotton and its blends. When compared with current best-available technologies, AVITERA SE enables textile processing mills to reduce water consumption, energy consumption and CO2 emission by up to 50%; salt consumption is cut by 20% and cycle times by 25%. Machine suppliers using sophisticated dyeing/washing-off equipment confirm water consumption of 15 litre/kg of dyed fabric is a reality with AVITERA SE dyes. Since its launch, AVITERA SE has saved 4bn litres of water and 150m kg of carbon emission.

Wholistic future finishing system - “Zero add-on” non-iron performance using Fixapret Resin WFF textile finishing system

BASF’s patented non-iron resin, Fixapret Resin WFF, used in textile manufacturing to create a non-iron effect, enables high wrinkle-free effect combined with zero add-on formaldehyde, yet maintains optimal fibre strength. Previous resins resulted in a trade-off between non-iron performance and fibre strength.

The new resin contributes to the three pillars of sustainability defined by BASF Textile Chemicals in accordance with its theme “Putting Future into Textiles”: consumer safety, resource saving and environment protection. It does not use formaldehyde; can be applied in a one-step process, thus reducing energy and water consumption; and is biodegradable. Formaldehyde found in textiles is of particular safety concern for end-users due to the often direct contact with the skin and regulations are becoming increasingly strict. Additionally, Fixapret Resin WFF provides excellent abrasion resistance (two times higher) to the garment compared to a classical wrinkle-free system, due to its longer and more flexible cross-linkages.

Breakthroughs make epichlorohydrin technology eco-friendly

Solvay’s Epicerol epichlorohydrin (ECH) uses glycerol as a main raw material, available as a by-product of biodiesel and oleochemicals production. But as well as introducing a new renewable feedstock route to the epoxy resin intermediate, Solvay’s process also tackles a major environmental issue of conventional ECH manufacture: the production of salty water/brine polluted by chlorinated organics, for which no satisfactory disposal solution has been found. The Epicerol process solves this issue by recycling the brine in membrane chlor-alkali electrolysis, after a special treatment called Solox based on oxidation by chlorine. Life cycle assessment “cradle to gate” of the Epicerol process shows reductions of 61% of the global warming potential in comparison with propylene process. Solvay has run a 100,000 tonnes/year Epicerol plant in Thailand since 2012 and has developed specific partnerships throughout the chain of manufacture to guarantee the origin of its ECH to final application.

Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics
PacXpert: A flexible alternative to rigid packaging

Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics is committed to delivering solutions that optimise environmental efficiencies. Recently, Dow reinforced that promise through a global licence with inventor Ken Wilkes for a new packaging design. Initially coined SmartBottle by Wilkes, Dow trademarked it globally as PacXpert Packaging Technology. The package can be used across a variety of household, institutional and industrial applications including food, liquids and dry goods, and is available in sizes ranging from 1-20 litres. PacXpert offers advantages along the entire supply chain. For manufacturers and brand owners, it requires less raw materials than its rigid counterparts and as a result of its lightweight design and ability to ship flat when empty, it increases transportation efficiencies and potentially lowers CO2 emissions. Furthermore, PacXpert occupies less receptacle and landfill space. For end-users and consumers, PacXpert reduces content waste through improved product yield. The technology also provides fitment closure options that can extend the life of air-sensitive products.


Overall Sponsor

Roland Berger

Category Sponsor

U.S. Chemicals