Refining & Chemicals segment

Refining & Chemicals (excluding Specialty Chemicals)

The aim of R&D is to support the medium and long-term development of Refining & Chemicals. In doing so, it contributes to the technological differentiation of this business through the development, implementation and promotion of effective R&D programs that pave the way for the industrialization of knowledge, processes and technologies.

In line with Refining & Chemicals’ strategy, R&D places special emphasis on the following four major challenges: take advantage of different types of feedstock, optimize the value of assets, continue to develop innovative products, and develop bio-sourced products. The medium-term strategy of the project portfolio and its deployment plan will facilitate Refining & Chemicals’ technological differentiation.

To take advantage of different types of feedstock, R&D activities related to the processing of more diversified crudes have increased significantly through a better understanding of the effect that feedstocks have on equipment and processes at the molecular level. R&D is launching ambitious new programs to develop various technologies for producing liquid fuels, monomers and intermediates from gas.

R&D is developing know-how and technologies with a view to optimizing the value of assets. Its efforts mainly involve programs focusing on the flexibility and availability of facilities. Advanced modeling of feedstocks and processes helps the units overcome their processing-related constraints and operate in real time with these constraints in mind. Research conducted on catalysts is helping to increase their resistance to poisons, improve catalytic stability and extend cycle time at a lower cost. Programs are being set up to maximize the value of heavy residues.

In response to concerns related to social and environmental acceptability, R&D focuses its efforts on reducing emissions, with the aim of ensuring that the facilities’ environmental impact is limited. In anticipation of problems that arise over the long term and the value of CO2, R&D is developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon capture and recovery by conversion.

Product innovation is a key aspect of research on polymers. R&D draws on its knowledge of metallocenes and bimodality to develop different types of mass consumption polymers which have exceptional properties that allow them to replace heavier materials and compete with technical polymers. Value-added niche polymers are also being developed, whether in the form of blends, compounds or composites. Efforts to diversify into “green” products are focused mainly on bioproducts endorsed by the market: biomonomers, biointermediates and biopolymers. R&D is banking on polylactic acid for the market launch of new polymers that boast improved properties. In addition, the development of blends, compounds and composites broadens the scope of application of polylactic acid-based polymers.

With regard to biofuels, R&D has focused its efforts on gasification and coprocessing to produce liquid fuels from biomass. R&D is also particularly mindful of issues related to blends and product quality raised by the use of biomolecules.

The efficient use of resources and the management of plastics at the end of their useful life are topics of growing interest. R&D is therefore developing technologies that enable plastics to be used more efficiently as feedstock.

Specialty Chemicals

R&D has strategic importance for Specialty Chemicals. It is closely linked to the needs of subsidiaries and industrial customers.

Material innovation at Hutchinson is opening up new growth opportunities: development of advanced rubber or thermoplastic formulas, development of new material formulations based on composite structures, or thermal applications.

In addition, growth and R&D focus on topics such as weight reduction, more electric vehicles, mechatronics and energy efficiency. Hutchinson set up two new platforms in 2014 within its research center: CTeC dedicated to composite structures, and MHuST dedicated to embedded mechatronic developments.

Atotech is one of the world leaders in integrated production systems (chemicals, equipment, know-how and service) for industrial surface finishing and the manufacturing of integrated circuits. Given the environmental challenges related to electroplating, nearly half of Atotech’s R&D projects are intended to develop cleaner technologies and create conditions for the sustainable development of these industries.