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How Catalysis Creates Value

As sustainability becomes an imperative for businesses around the globe, Catalysis, which comprises the Business Unit and the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, is thriving. With a clear focus on innovation and partnerships, the Business Area is underlining its commitment to offer high-performing catalytic and biofuel solutions to its customers.


Applications – Catalysis (graphic)

1. Profiting from rising awareness for sustainability

With its innovative catalysts and , Business Unit Catalysts delivers significant and sustainable customer value by driving higher production throughput, lowering energy consumption, and reducing hazardous emissions from industrial processes and combustion engines. Population growth and the rising standard of living in emerging countries are expected to double the demand for chemicals by 2030, simultaneously increasing the associated energy consumption. Thus, chemical production will have to be more efficient to achieve sustainable energy consumption. Business Unit is confident in its ability to capitalize on these developments as its main products – catalysts – enhance sustainable and energy-efficient production.

For Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, the world’s growing efforts to fight climate change are paramount. To limit global warming, action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary, particularly in the transportation sector, where greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. Advanced biofuels present a low-emissions solution, and legislation around the world is fostering their proliferation. Advanced biofuels, also referred to as second-generation biofuels, are extracted from non-food crops, crop waste, or other residues. In over 70 countries, regulatory mandates for biofuels have been established. In the European Union, for example, the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II foresees a 3.5% advanced biofuels use by 2030. India’s administration mandated twelve second-generation ethanol plants to be built by 2022. In China, a nationwide mandate to achieve a 10% renewable ethanol content in transportation fuels should be established with strong governmental support for non-food-based biofuels and second-generation ethanol plants. These legislation mechanisms are expected to drive demand for advanced biofuels, offering significant growth potential.

Idea to Market

2. Advancing through innovation and collaboration

Investment in innovation is the cornerstone of success in the catalyst business. Business Unit Catalysts focuses its innovation activities on continuously increasing the efficiency, performance, and sustainability of its products. In recent years, a pronounced focus on research and innovation in China led Clariant to implement a new Research and Development initiative for catalysts in the country. As its production capacity and innovation efforts grow in the region, the company’s local footprint continues to expand.

Supporting innovation and talent in China

In 2019, Clariant sponsored the »Young Scientist Award« at the National Congress on Catalysis of China. The prize recognizes researchers under the age of 45 for their outstanding contributions to catalyst technology.

As an innovation leader and an independent catalyst supplier, Business Unit Catalysts forms partnerships with leading process licensors and engineering partners globally. The combination of outstanding catalytic solutions and independent process technologies offers customers a convenient all-in-one package. An example of such a partnership is the collaboration with the engineering partner Wuxi Xiyuan to supply a joint production technology to formaldehyde plant operators. By 2019, the innovative solution based on Clariant’s FAMAX® 200 DS catalyst is installed in six formaldehyde plants with an annual capacity of 825 kilotons of formaldehyde in China and India. Clariant and Wuxi Xiyuan also joined forces in innovative off-gas treatment solutions enabled by Clariant EnviCat® VOC catalysts and Wuxi Xiyuan technology for silver-based formaldehyde plants in China.

FAMAX® 200 DS – a next-generation formaldehyde catalyst

The iron-molybdenum catalyst allows producers to achieve considerably higher productivity and profitability with increased efficiency and selectivity compared to traditional silver-based production methods. The catalyst’s hollow, cylindrical shape reduces pressure drop over the catalyst bed by 10 – 15% compared to conventional catalysts. This special design gives producers the flexibility to reduce energy consumption when operating at the same plant capacity or to increase production capacity at the same energy costs.

3. Maturing and modulating sunliquid®

Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives focused innovation activities on its flagship technology sunliquid®. In 2019, Clariant and ORLEN Południe signed a license agreement on sunliquid® cellulosic ethanol technology. ORLEN Południe is a member of the ORLEN Group, a leader in the fuels and energy markets in Central and Eastern Europe. This license agreement is another successful step toward the commercialization of the sunliquid® technology for advanced biofuels in Europe. ORLEN Południe plans to use the innovative and sustainable technology for project development and plant operation at its Jedlicze site in southeastern Poland, utilizing available land and the potential for integration with its existing petroleum refinery. Once inaugurated, the annual production capacity is planned to be 25 000 tons of bioethanol.

In 2019, Clariant also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese companies Anhui Guozhen Group and Chemtex Chemical Engineering on its sunliquid® technology. The MoU was followed by a license agreement at the beginning of 2020. The Chinese companies have agreed to form a with the aim to realize a full-scale commercial cellulosic ethanol production plant in Fuyang, China, which will have a 50 000 ton capacity with an option to double this output in a second phase. The cellulosic ethanol produced will be utilized in the Chinese regional fuels market as a gasoline to fulfill the national blending mandate.

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Converting straw to biofuel with sunliquid®

Sunliquid® (graphic)

is an innovative process to produce biofuels and biomaterials from agricultural residues. First, an agricultural residue, such as wheat straw, is treated with steam, followed by a subsequent sudden drop in pressure, which causes the straw to break down. Second, the straw remnants enter a series of reactors in which they are liquified through specific enzymes produced on-site. These enzymes break down the straw into simple sugars. Then, the sugars are fermented to create an ethanol-water mixture. In the last step, the ethanol is purified, so it can serve as biofuel or as a feedstock for bio-materials. The sunliquid® process is energy self-sufficient as it uses lignin, the insoluble part of the straw, obtained as residue in the biomass.

Clariant completed a report on the carbon footprint of sunliquid®, which revealed that the carbon intensity of ethanol produced with sunliquid® is up to six times lower compared to conventional fuels.

At the pre-commercial plant in Straubing, Germany, Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives successfully tested the energy crop miscanthus as a feedstock for bioethanol production. INA, Croatia’s leading oil and gas company, has chosen sunliquid® to assess usability of miscanthus for conversion into cellulosic sugars and ethanol within the EU-funded GRACE project. These tests constitute an important milestone for upscaling sunliquid®, as they prove the flexibility of the technology platform regarding different lignocellulosic feedstock, including dedicated energy crops.

The Business Line also signed a joint research agreement with ExxonMobil and REG Life Sciences, which was acquired by Genomatica over the course of the project. The research agreement evaluates the potential use of cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste and residues to produce biodiesel. The main objective of the collaboration is to combine processes into a seamless biomass-to-biodiesel technology. In 2019, different types of cellulosic feedstock were converted into sugars under different process conditions at the plant in Straubing, Germany. Genomatica then turned these sugars into high-quality, low-carbon biodiesel in laboratory and pilot experiments. In addition, Clariant will provide a conceptual engineering study for the biomass-to-sugars portion of the project.

Market to Customer

4. Creating value with innovative products and services

Another year of successful product launches for Business Unit Catalysts was experienced in 2019. The new propane dehydrogenation catalyst CATOFIN™ 311 further enhances selectivity and longevity of previous CATOFIN™ generations. Customers with typical plants could benefit from up to USD 20 million in savings due to increased productivity over the lifetime of the catalyst. CATOFIN™ is a highly reliable and productive method for light paraffin dehydrogenation that operates at optimum reactor pressure and temperature, maximizing the conversion of propane to propylene, a starting product for the petrochemical industry and an important base chemical. Clariant further announced the successful start-up of the CATOFIN™ catalyst at Hengli Group’s new dehydrogenation plant in Dalian, China. With a production capacity of over one million tons of olefins per year, this will become one of the world’s largest plants using CATOFIN™ catalyst technology.

With OxyMax® PA 690, Clariant launched a next-generation phthalic anhydride catalyst that greatly increases yield and provides excellent product quality. The catalyst is produced using Clariant’s proprietary fluid-bed coating technology, in which ceramic rings are coated with a thin shell of catalytically active materials and special promoters. This enhances mass and heat transport and reduces over-oxidation as well as formation of unwanted by-products such as carbon oxides and maleic anhydride. The OxyMax® PA 600 catalyst series has been granted two patent families due to its unique composition and formulation. The catalysts offer great flexibility as they can be tailored to individual operating and feedstock conditions.

Another example of Clariant’s value-creating approach is StyroMax™ UL3. The catalyst achieves high activity and selectivity in styrene monomer production and requires less steam and associated energy consumption due to very low steam-to-oil operating conditions. Its high activity increases styrene monomer yields, while its improved selectivity minimizes the formation of by-products, such as toluene and benzene, which are typically less valuable than styrene monomer. As with most of its products and applications, Business Unit Catalysts provides engineering support with StyroMax™ UL3. The offering includes start-up services, subsequent assistance to maintain optimum operation performance, and, if required, on-site troubleshooting services. Read more in

»Our mission is to develop and supply high-performing catalysts that create value for our partners and the planet.«

Stefan Heuser Head of Business Unit Catalysts

5. Strengthening customer support and increasing presence

Proximity to customers is paramount. To enhance its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Business Unit Catalysts inaugurated its third Engineering Services office in the region to complement the offices in Singapore and Tokyo. Located near Jakarta, Indonesia, the new office focuses on technical support for ethylene, styrene, and syngas production, as well as fuel upgrading, hydrogenation, and oxidation. The office is based at Clariant’s Tangerang site and relies on close collaboration with regional colleagues. Customers profit from Clariant’s reduced response time and increased ability to work more closely on their challenges.

In 2019, Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives enhanced proximity to customers by establishing and extending its footprint, with team members now also based in Shanghai, China; Mumbai, India; and Jakarta, Indonesia. With a dedicated team in Romania, the Business Line offers customer support for feedstock operations regarding feedstock availability and assessment, value chain contract systems, and complete value chain analyses, covering everything from baling to storage. As sunliquid® can be used with different feedstock materials, these services are crucial to carry out new, successful projects.

Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives also continued relationship-building with political and active engagement in biofuel industry associations such as ePURE and Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels (LSB). The latter is a coalition Clariant has chaired since June 2019.

Customer to Cash

6. Improving supply chain management

In 2019, Business Unit Catalysts made progress in streamlining supply chain handling and institutionalizing Clariant’s end-to-end supply chain management dashboard. Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives has taken important measures for the successful implementation and execution of its supply chain at the sunliquid® plant in Romania. The dedicated feedstock team established long-term contracts with more than 200 farmers so far to ensure stable and reliable straw supply for the operational phase of the plant. In 2019, over 20 000 tons of straw were harvested in order to test and adjust supply chain performance. The trials were centered on efficient straw collection, transportation, and storage. The ramp-up of the supply chain will continue to work toward more than 250 000 tons for full-scale plant capacity. As of 2019, Biofuels & Derivatives features a digital application that supports supply chain operations with regard to coordinating, managing, and monitoring straw harvest operations. In addition, network systems for straw storage and just-in-time delivery were implemented.

7. Assuring safe and sustainable operations

In its production plant in Romania, Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives built up the country and site organizations for the management of Occupational Health, Safety, and Well-being. An Environmental Safety and Health Affairs (ESHA) manager was hired and intensively trained at Clariant’s sites in Straubing, Pratteln, Sulzbach, and Frankfurt. The training supported the implementation of Clariant’s guidelines in the newly founded organization and turned Clariant’s safety culture into an industry standard in Romania. In the pre-commercial plant in Straubing, Germany, around 30 safety trainings have been performed, led by either Clariant personnel or third parties, including trainings for explosion protection, pressurized vessels, and fire extinguishing.

In 2019, Business Unit Catalysts was able to significantly improve operations in Panjin, China. As part of the extension of catalysts production capacities for maleic anhydride applications, operational processes were improved. In addition, water consumption and wastewater generation continued to decline, compared to 2013.


6–9 %

Growth potential per year

26–30 %

target margin



6.4 %

R&D spend of sales


Raw material procured
in CHF m

> 100

Active innovation projects


Production sites (50:50 or minority joint ventures not included)

1 174

Number of raw materials procured


29 721

Training hours


Raw material suppliers



Energy consumption in m kWh




Sales in CHF m

9 %

Growth in local currencies


Production volume in m t


2 113

Staff in FTE at year-end
(2018: 2 061)



Waste in thousand t

2 7462

Greenhouse gas emissions in kg/t production

1 For 2019, the production volume is based on a reduced reporting scope, which includes sites that are responsible for 95 % of total production.

2 Every three years, Clariant validates environmental data from all production sites. The last full reporting campaign was in 2017. In the interim years, including 2019, the reduced reporting scope comprises the larger sites responsible for 95 % of production.

Business Area

For the financial reporting, Clariant grouped its businesses in three core Business Areas: Care Chemicals, Catalysis, and Natural Resources. View entire glossary


A substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. View entire glossary


Usually solid substances which are able to selectively accumulate certain substances from adjacent gaseous or liquid phases. View entire glossary


A substance that lowers the activation energy, thereby increasing the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction itself. View entire glossary

Joint venture

Joint ventures are all activities in which Clariant is involved with another partner. The accounting method applied for joint ventures depends on the specific conditions of the participation. View entire glossary


A substance added to products in small quantities to achieve certain properties or to improve a product. View entire glossary

Value chain

The value chain describes the series of steps in the production process, from raw materials through the various intermediate stages to the finished end product. View entire glossary


Stakeholders are people or groups whose interests are linked in various ways with those of a company. They include shareholders, business partners, employees, neighbors, and the community. View entire glossary


Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. View entire glossary

EBITDA margin

The EBITDA margin is calculated based on the ratio of EBITDA to sales and shows the return generated through operations from sales before depreciation and amortization. View entire glossary

Exceptional items

Exceptional items are defined as non-recurring costs or income that have a significant impact on the result, for example expenses related to restructuring measures. View entire glossary

Financial Capital

The pool of funds available to the company for use in the production of goods or the provision of services. This can include funds obtained through financing, such as debt, equity, or grants, and funds generated by the company, for example through sales or investments. View entire glossary

Intellectual Capital

Knowledge-based intangibles used and created by the company, often in collaboration with partners. This can include intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, software, rights, and licenses, and »organizational capital« such as tacit knowledge, systems, procedures, and protocols. View entire glossary

Manufactured Capital

Manufactured physical objects such as buildings, equipment, and products. These can include objects that are available to the company for use in the production of goods or the provision of services, or that the company produces for sale to customers or for its own use. View entire glossary

Human Capital

The company’s staff and its composition, competencies, capabilities, experience, and motivation to innovate. This can include employees’ alignment with corporate values and their ability to understand and implement the company’s strategy. View entire glossary

Relationship Capital

Key relationships including those with significant groups of stakeholders and other networks. This can include shared values, the trust and willingness to engage that the company has developed, and related intangibles associated with its brand and reputation. View entire glossary

Natural Capital

Renewable and nonrenewable environmental resources and processes that support the past, current, or future prosperity of the company or are affected by it. Examples can include resources related to air, water, and land that are utilized or impacted for example by emissions. View entire glossary