Technicians from SOG Group, owner and operator of The Heath Business and Technical Park, have helped construct a state-of-the-art customer demonstration plant for clean-tech pioneers Econic Technologies.
The new plant – the first of its kind in the UK – enables Econic to showcase its cutting-edge catalyst technologies in a bespoke industrial unit to demonstrate how harmful CO2 emissions can be converted into valuable raw materials for use in everyday products such as automobiles, bedding and footwear.
SOG’s technicians at The Heath in Runcorn, one of the UK’s leading independently-owned business and technical parks, provided Econic with support for the creative design and construction of the new building plus project management services to oversee the installation of the ground-breaking plant.
SOG’s technical team managed all aspects of the complex fit-out of the plant area including electrical installation, mechanical pipework, plumbing, fume cupboard installation and extraction systems along with the supply of site nitrogen and compressed air. This created the bespoke footprint ready for installation of the main plant equipment, assembled on site by Econic and their supply partners. SOG will also offer ongoing engineering support and maintenance to Econic through its Precision Engineering and Laboratory Technician Support teams.
Econic’s Business Development Director Richard French said: “The customer demonstration plant is a fantastic achievement for the project team which featured Econic staff and a number of engineering consultants working in partnership to deliver a fast-paced project that meets the highest industry design and safety standards.
“The new plant enables us to showcase our innovative catalyst technologies and demonstrate to customers how we can convert CO2 into polyols which can then be used to make more sustainable polyurethanes. This allows our customers a powerful advantage of being able to turn CO2 into a valuable raw material feedstock instead of it being emitted to the atmosphere as a harmful greenhouse gas. We are very pleased to acknowledge the Horizon 2020 public funding that has supported this project, and enabled us to accelerate the technology demonstration in such a compelling way.”
Mr French added: “Our demonstration plant is a scaled down version of a commercial polyol plant and allows us to prove that the process will function on customers’ ‘full size’ plants at low retrofit cost without the need for a full plant rebuild – something that is necessary for all other CO2 to polymer polyol technologies. It also allows us to produce polyol samples that we can supply to customers for their own application testing and evaluation purposes. This way they can model the properties of the products they produce allowing them to be optimised and fine-tuned before going to commercial scale.”
The plant also allows Econic to fully test products in a semi-industrial situation as part of its development and optimisation programme for future catalyst systems.
SOG’s in-house engineering team led by Operations Director Charles Davies worked with the Econic team to deliver the new facility.
John Lewis, SOG’s Managing Director, congratulated Dr Rowena Sellens, Econic Technologies CEO, on the launch of the new plant. He said: “Econic are a very exciting company with technologies to combat the damaging effects of C02 in our everyday lives.”
Referring to SOG technicians Mr Lewis added: “It really is an excellent example of how engineers and specialist tradesmen – trained by ICI decades ago – still have capabilities, knowledge and ability to work with tomorrow’s innovators, such as Econic, and develop facilities that were under threat of demolition 18 years ago and converting them into the very latest technical environments to meet with the requirements of such emerging dynamic organisations.
“The SOG technical team at The Heath has been able to help Econic to construct this incredible state-of-the-art bespoke customer demonstration plant. The fact that this new plant is the first of its kind in the UK, and has been built here at the Heath, I would like to think is another example of the really cutting-edge scientific R&D which is taking place across The Heath Business and Technical Park.”
About Econic Technologies
Founded in 2011 by Charlotte Williams, now Professor of Catalysis and Materials Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and David Morgan, formerly an executive director of catalyst company, Johnson Matthey plc, Econic Technologies pioneers catalyst technologies for application within the plastics industry.
The talented team of scientists, engineers and commercial managers conduct their cutting-edge work in a state-of-the-art facility at Alderley
Park, the internationally renowned science hub south of Manchester with an additional customer demonstration plant located at The Heath in Runcorn.
The underlying catalyst technology was developed at Imperial College London, one of the top research universities in Europe. Econic Technologies has since gone on to develop industrially tailored catalyst systems that enable the utilisation of captured CO2 as a feedstock for manufacturing polyols. Bespoke amounts of CO2 may be used (from low levels up to the maximum 50%) depending on the application of the polyol. This means producers can achieve 30% cost savings on raw material feedstock as well as significant environmental benefit from lower CO2 emissions.
Since 2011, Econic Technologies has secured funding from Touchstone Innovations, Jetstream Capital and Woodford. In 2016, Econic secured a Horizon 2020 SME award to help accelerate the commercialisation of its catalyst technologies. This was followed in 2018, with further investment from OGCI Ventures.
The Horizon 2020 SME Instrument is a public funding programme that funds risk innovation in small businesses. It is part of Horizon 2020 – the EU’s €80 billion funding programme for Research and Innovation, of which only the most innovative companies get selected. 25% of the companies funded under the SME Instrument are in the 10% fastest growing companies in Europe according to Venture Radar. Companies receive up to €2.5 million to bring their innovation to the market, free coaching and support in commercialisation – like facilitated access to overseas trade fairs. In total the programme will invest €3 billion in 7500 companies until 2020.
Polyols are the building blocks for polyurethane and are used in the production of flexible and rigid foams as well as adhesives, sealants and PU coatings. The main industry end sectors are automobiles, footwear & apparel (sports trainers – Adidas, Nike etc), furniture (sofas – Ikea, QFC, DFS etc) & bedding, appliances (fridges) and building insulation products. The value of the market is £15 billion and is growing.
About The Heath
The Heath Business and Technical Park is a phenomenal regeneration success story. Formed in 2000, its owner and operator, SOG Ltd, has transformed a once single occupancy corporate facility into a thriving independent business park. The Heath now provides office and laboratory
accommodation for more than 150 individual organisations, ranging from business services and IT specialists to those at the cutting edge of science, research and advanced manufacturing. Around 2,000 people are employed at the site. For further information, telephone 01928 515988 or visit www.theheath.com
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For further information about Econic, please contact:
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