Press Release; January 23, 2015
BAYER production of polyurethanes
New TDI plant: Environmental groups affirm criticism
Friends of the Earth Germany and the Coalition against BAYER Dangers reconfirm their criticism towards the new chemical plant at Dormagen (Germany).
In December 2014 the chemical company BAYER opened a new plant for the synthesis of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) with an annual production of 300,000 tons. TDI is a so-called isocyanate. The substance is used as a foam material in car seats, shoes and mattresses. BAYER is one of the largest producers worldwide.
Philipp Mimkes of the Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG) says: “The production of TDI is a symbol for the chemical industry being on the wrong track. Highly toxic substances such as phosgene or carbon monoxide are utilized as intermediate products. The production is extremely energy consuming. In addition, polyurethanes do not decompose and therefore soon end up on waste disposal sites or as plastic waste in the ocean”. Mimkes calls for a change towards renewable natural resources, biodegradable end-products as well as a resource-conserving economy.
Angelika Horster of the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (Friends of the Earth Germany) adds: “The industry´s credo is growth. This growth goes along with additional emissions and a vast use of resources. Likewise, in the case of TDI the small increase in efficiency will be eclipsed by higher production figures.“
The new plant is severely harmful for the climate as approximately five tons of CO2 are produced for every ton of TDI. BAYER, however, has refused to provide detailed forecasts of resource and energy usage. In addition, the plant uses 360,000 tons of phosgene per year.
Serious accidents have already occurred within the TDI production facility at BAYER. However, the company did not present worst case scenarios for the spillage of large amounts of phosgene or TDI. Philipp Mimkes comments: “The accidents at BAYER´s Institute (US) plant or at INEOS in Dormagen show that such disasters don´t follow predictable paths. Therefore precaution has to be taken even for unlikely scenarios.“
The Coalition criticises the fact that the plant is located only 300 metres from a nearby train station, while the German Commission for Plant Safety recommends a security distance of 1,500 metres for phosgene. Phosgene was originally developed by BAYER as a poisonous gas in World War I and is one of the most dangerous substances produced at industrial plants. At any given moment there will be about 60 tonnes of phosgene within the plant.
The environmental groups' demand for a concrete wall around all parts of the construction that hold phosgene was not fulfilled. Instead, the enclosure has been made of metal sheets that cannot resist a major fire.