Innovation in the segments – examples
Innovations are an important success factor for BASF’s long-term growth. In developing new products, we look at the needs of our customers as well as at market trends, and take advantage of the opportunities arising from value chains in the BASF Verbund. We want to become even more competitive through innovative production methods. We never stop improving our existing products, applications and processes. With chemistry, we can sustainably create value for customers and society.
Over the last few years, we have been constantly improving our production process for isononanol (INA), an important precursor for products like plasticizers. We have been able to raise the production and energy efficiency of this process and expand its raw material base, so that in addition to steam cracker products, side streams from refineries can also be used as a raw material. This increases our supply security and improves our cost structure. Together with our partner Sinopec, we started up a new INA production plant in October 2015 in Maoming, China, in which the new process has already been successfully implemented.
In the Monomers division, we are constantly on the lookout for innovative and large-volume applications for our existing products. An example of this is the successful introduction of polymer MDI as a binding agent for various wood-based products. Laminate flooring especially benefits from improved performance properties, with increased moisture resistance. Our globally active team of specialists proved a key success factor for this new application, as they supported customers in North America and Asia in converting their production.
In 2015, we supplied the first PolyTHF® 1000 produced using renewable raw materials to selected partners for testing purposes in various applications. This precursor is made using a license from Genomatica, and its quality is on a level with conventionally produced PolyTHF® 1000 based on petrochemicals. It can therefore be employed as a chemical component in thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is used to make such products as ski boots, shoe soles, films, hoses and cable jacketing. This enables our customers to develop innovative products based on renewable raw materials.
Paint manufacturers want to offer products that can be applied in a short amount of time without compromising on high quality and attractive appearance. Our Acronal® EDGE 4750 dispersion in the North American decorative paint portfolio allows our customers to combine the demands of both primer and top coat into a single paint: Acronal® EDGE 4750 adheres well and prevents stains from penetrating the paint while providing coverage, durability and stain resistance. Painters can therefore dispense with a whole process step and still achieve the highest-quality results.
The minty taste of menthol, the world’s top-selling flavor, can be found in countless everyday products. Unlike other flavorings that remain in liquid form, menthol crystallizes to a solid at room temperature. Customers first have to melt it again before using it. Yet we already supply our menthol in liquid form by transporting and storing the still-hot menthol from the production facility in containers with a mobile heating element. This saves our customers several processing steps along the value chain, allowing them to put it to direct use: a sustainable business model with both economic and environmental benefits.
The high-performance polymer Sokalan® HP 20 gets laundry clean with fewer resources. It can be used in both conventional and highly concentrated liquid laundry detergents, removing stains from textiles even at low washing temperatures. Sokalan® HP 20 also prevents the redeposition of removed soil onto the washed fabric, keeping colors bright and white laundry from turning grey.
Since 2014, the United States has had very stringent regulations for the environmental friendliness of certain lubricants in the shipping industry – such as those used for marine propulsion and steering systems. Our Synative® ES TMP ester base stocks contain a large amount of renewable raw materials, are biodegradable, and are nontoxic to marine organisms. Because they work effectively and yet also in a more environmentally friendly manner than many comparable products in the marine industry, they help protect marine life and are employed in many applications subject to especially strict regulations.
Functional Materials & Solutions
BASF has developed a catalyst technology that allows refineries to increase yields of valuable products like gasoline, diesel and other fuels from crude oil. The nickel contained in crude oil presents a particular challenge to further processing, as it significantly increases the generation of undesirable by-products like petroleum coke and hydrogen. Combined with an optimized pore structure, our new catalyst based on the metalloid boron intercepts nickel in processing, thus preventing undesirable chemical reactions.
The MasterEase range of concrete additives greatly improves the flow properties of the building material. This is especially true of modern high-performance concrete. Its lower water and cement content improves stability and increases buildings’ longevity, but also makes the material sticky and harder to pump. Developed by BASF, polymers contained in MasterEase products reduce the concrete’s viscosity by up to 30%. From mixing and pumping to sealing and smoothing, processing therefore becomes easier, quicker and more economical.
With XSpark®, we have developed an exclusive color effect for automotive OEM coatings that sparkles with particular brilliance in direct sunlight. Tiny glass particles that reflect light more precisely than other effect pigments are applied together with the paint layer in a single step. The resulting homogeneous surface provides a pure, solid-color reflection with particular depth, a complex paint effect that creates a high-quality, elegant-looking coating without being intrusive. This innovative product has already won several international awards.
Together with our partner ContiTech Vibration Control, we have developed the world’s first plastic transmission crossbeam in the rear axle subframe of vehicles for the S-Class from Mercedes-Benz. Made of Ultramid® engineering plastic, the component reduces noise and is 25% lighter than typical models made of aluminum, which means a reduction in vehicle fuel consumption. Thanks to our Elastollan® thermoplastic polyurethane, the company Schwalbe has been able to reduce weight in its “Evo Tube” inner tube designed for mountain bikes by up to 65% compared with conventional, butyl-based inner tubes.
We work together with farmers to keep their farmland arable for future generations and to accommodate society’s rising expectations. To do so, we constantly invest in our development pipeline in order to expand our portfolio both in and beyond conventional crop protection – such as in biological solutions. In 2015, we invested €514 million in research and development in the Crop Protection division, representing around 9% of sales for the segment.
Our innovation pipeline comprises products launched between 2015 and 2025. With a current peak sales potential of €3 billion, the pipeline comprises innovations from all business areas. The herbicide Engenia®, for example, is being introduced in the United States as a key component of dicamba- and glyphosate-tolerant cropping systems. In 2016, we will apply for approval of a new fungicide that can be used in many crops around the world. We are also bolstering our insecticide portfolio with novel high-performance ingredients.
Our Seltima® formulation from the Functional Crop Care portfolio offers farmers an efficient, yet environmentally friendly, solution for guarding rice crops against fungal infections. The special encapsulation technology developed in the BASF Verbund ensures the precise release of its active ingredient exclusively on the rice leaf’s surface, enabling better protection of both plant and environment.
BASF Plant Science: We collaborate with numerous biotechnology and seed companies, research institutes, and universities worldwide on developing crops with higher yields and improved resistance to unfavorable environmental factors, such as drought. We also work closely together with the Crop Protection division to research and bring to market innovative herbicide tolerance solutions. In 2015, we launched the Cultivance® production system, a combination of genetically modified soybeans and the corresponding herbicide. Cultivance® therefore provides farmers with a complete solution for weed control in soybean cultivation.
Oil & Gas
Our research and development activities focus on improving the discovery rate of oil and gas reservoirs, developing technologies for reservoirs with challenging development and production conditions, and increasing the recovery factor of reservoirs.
Together with an external partner, we have employed a new and efficient method in the Staffhorst natural gas field in Germany for recovering remaining potential in an economical manner. The conventional drilling rig that would have been used to extend the well by the necessary 170 meters would have been too time and cost-intensive; in addition, production would need to have been halted while the work was in progress. Instead, the drilling was accomplished through the existing production tubing, using flexible steel coiled tubing and the world’s smallest drilling turbine to drive the drill head. We were thus able to deepen the well at low cost and without stopping production.