How Catalysis Creates Value

helps customers increase yield while simultaneously decreasing energy consumption and emissions. After developing an innovative process to produce biofuels using biologic catalysts, Catalysis entered a new, promising market. With its impressive innovation activities and long-standing expertise, Catalysis contributes to Clariant’s growth and profitability.


Applications – Catalysis (graphic)

1. Benefiting from economic growth and future-oriented regulation

Business Area Catalysis is embedded in a highly globalized business environment, with production sites around the world and a product portfolio that serves a multitude of industries. Thus, the global economic growth in 2018 supported strong sales in . In addition, promising business opportunities emerged from the regulatory environment, which is continually adapting to increased awareness of environmental issues, such as climate change. In China’s fast-growing market, for example, stricter emission legislation led to an increase in demand for catalysts, enabling more sustainable production processes and products. In the European Union, the Renewable Energy Directive foresees a 3.5% usage of advanced biofuels by 2030, and China is aiming to achieve a 10% renewable ethanol content in transportation fuels in the next few years. These commitments offer substantial growth potential for by spurring demand for sustainably produced biofuels.


2. Innovating for a fossil-free future

For Business Area Catalysis, innovation is the cornerstone of all activities to develop outstanding, multi-purposed products. Due to the negative environmental effects of burning fossil fuels, harvesting renewable energies is becoming increasingly important. As wind and solar power are dependent on weather fluctuations, storage is paramount in order to ensure steady energy supply.

In 2018, Clariant partnered with Hydrogenious Technologies to revolutionize the hydrogen economy. The innovative Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC) technology significantly improves safety, scalability, and convenience in hydrogen storage and transportation. Clariant’s EleMax™ catalysts chemically bind and release hydrogen to and from an organic carrier, permitting storage without notable energy losses and enabling optimized life cycle efficiency of the LOHC. The carrier is non-toxic and of low flammability, thus classifying it as non-hazardous. In addition, the compound remains liquid through a broad temperature range at ambient pressure and can be transported in the existing infrastructure for fossil fuels. This enables a ready supply of industrial locations and fueling sites. In Tennessee, USA, the first commercial-scale units are in operation, confirming the technical and economic attractiveness of the technology. Clariant is proud of its role in facilitating this major leap forward to making hydrogen a safe, efficient, and scalable energy carrier.

»The successful development of dedicated catalysts for the LOHC technology is not only a testament to Clariant’s pioneering capabilities, but also reflects the importance of sustainability to our culture, operations, and as a driver for growth and innovation.«

Marvin Estenfelder Head of R&D at Business Unit Catalysts

For Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, the innovation focus remains on sunliquid®. In 2018, the sunliquid® technology was granted the Meyer-Galow Award for business chemistry, which is bestowed on innovations with outstanding sustainability. Clariant was honored for its achievements and contributions to the successful development and commercialization of this ground-breaking technology. In collaboration with Exxon and the Renewable Energy Group (REG) the technology was diversified to produce cellulosic diesel from second-generation sugars. Further Research & Development activities are aimed at optimizing sunliquid® with regard to further optimizing the platform in itself and in further diversifying the suit of derivatives products from sunliquid® platform.


Sunliquid® (graphic)

sunliquid® 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 leads the straw to break down. Second, the straw remnants enter a series of reactors in which they are liquefied and specific enzymes are grown. 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 biomaterials. By using lignin, the insoluble part of the straw, as fuel, the sunliquid® process is energy self-sufficient.

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.


3. Engaging with customers

Understanding and anticipating customer needs is crucial for business success. Thus, Catalysis focuses on spotting and identifying customer insights along the value chain. Clariant’s initiative is addressing these goals by constantly analyzing the company’s existing marketing capabilities.

A central source of customer insights is the biennial customer satisfaction survey. The results of the 2018 survey emphasize the importance of innovation for the customers of Business Area Catalysis. After »Technical Services«, it is the second most important buying criteria and the customers see a clear competitive edge over Clariant’s competitors. The Customer Satisfaction Index reached 77 points (2016: 79) and the Customer Loyalty Index remained at a high level, reaching 81 points (2016: 83).


The Customer Loyalty Index of the Business Area Catalysis remained at a high level of 81 points.

Clariant’s Business Unit Catalysts also organizes a biennial customer event, the »Defining the Future« conference, to gather the global industry community for networking, insight, and critical analysis. In 2018, over 50 presentations by experts on global chemical markets were given to more than 600 participants during the eighth »Defining the Future« conference in Hangzhou, China. Clariant detailed several customer challenges and how the company addressed them by designing products with outstanding performance and sustainability properties.

Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives continued relationship-building with political stakeholders in 2018. In addition, the sunliquid® sales and marketing team participated in various international conferences, particularly in the biomarkets and renewable energy sector, to further promote sunliquid® and its applications.

4. Launching products with enhanced sustainability profiles

Products of Business Unit Catalysts enhance sustainability and safety performance of customer production sites and processes. In 2018, Clariant expanded its portfolio with a high-performance solution that significantly reduces nitrogen oxides, which contribute to a range of negative environmental impacts, such as acid rain, smog, and ground-level ozone. The honeycomb-structured catalyst uses ammonia as a reducing agent for the conversion of the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen gas and water. The catalyst effectively lowers nitrogen oxide emissions from gas-fired exhaust streams and is well suited for use in a multitude of chemical and industrial applications, such as power generation or petrochemical refining.

Clariant prides itself on consistently innovating catalysts that achieve optimal performance. The OleMax™ 260 catalyst, launched in 2018, for example, provides close to 100% selectivity to ethylene. Not only does OleMax™ 260 produce higher yields, it also fosters a sustainable process with a simplified operation that reduces start-up-related hydrocarbon flaring, as well as time to on-specification ethylene production. The first commercial start-up in the new ethylene production plant of The Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas, USA, proved the potential of the catalyst.

With every product launch, Business Unit Catalysts further strengthens its product capabilities. In 2018, HYDEX™ E, the latest diesel dewaxing catalyst in the HYDEX™ series, was launched. The catalyst improves the cold flow properties of the fuel, facilitating its handling during cold conditions. HYDEX™ E is a new catalyst that can even operate under full sour service conditions, increasing diesel yield and reducing by-product formation. Due to improved desulfurization, additional product swelling, and an increased share of combustion-benign substances in the final product, HYDEX™ E prepares customers for new, more stringent fuel regulations regarding particulate formation.

Crude oil, the base of diesel, always contains a fraction of sulfur, which is responsible for acid rain. The latest Clariant diesel catalyst shows improved desulfurization and thus helps reduce harmful emissions.

In 2018, the MegaMax® 800 methanol synthesis catalyst was successfully implemented at one of China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) plants in Hainan Province. Methanol is used as a feedstock for a variety of chemicals, as well as a fuel, solvent, and antifreeze. MegaMax® 800 increases yield and efficiency while being compatible across a range of methanol process technology platforms. Furthermore, it maintains high selectivity over its lifetime and therefore considerably reduces by-product formation. The installation of MegaMax® 800 improves profitability and carbon efficiency of the CNOOC site, owing to the catalyst’s high productivity and due to its high activity and performance in lower operating temperatures.


5. Securing profitable partnerships

Engaging with partners along the value chain is vital for Business Area Catalysis to drive business and access new markets. In 2018, Business Unit Catalysts signed two key agreements with Sinopec, China’s largest petroleum and chemical company. One of the agreements allows Clariant to license S-Zorb, a sorbent used to desulfurize naphtha for gasoline production. The sorbent is ideal for upgrading gasoline in existing refineries in order to comply with the China National V standards for fuel quality. The other agreement positions Clariant as representative for Sinopec’s fluid catalytic-cracking catalysts to oil refineries in Qatar.

Another example showcasing that partnerships can lead to outstanding results is the contract to work with McDermott, formerly CB&I, to design the world’s largest single-train propane dehydrogenation unit for Jinneng Science & Technology Company in China. The partnership combines Clariant’s CATOFIN™ catalysts and Heat Generating Material with McDermott’s Lummus CATOFIN™ propane dehydrogenation technology. Clariant’s catalysts enable maximum conversion of raw materials, while the patented Heat Generating Material increases the catalysts’ selectivity, both producing higher yields at lower operating costs.

6. Advancing procurement, production, and operational safety

Business Area Catalysis continued to advance Clariant’s global procurement initiative in order to increase reliability and sustainability of its vast, global supply chain. In addition, Business Unit Catalysts managed to reach the goals set for third-party sustainability assessments.

The sunliquid® production facility in Romania is expected to produce 50 000 tons of ethanol from straw every year.

For the sunliquid® production plant in Romania, a dedicated team worked on establishing a long-term stable supply base and relationship with local farmers to ensure feedstock supply in the operational phase of the plant. Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives is developing a digital solution to support a transparent and efficient operation of the straw supply chain.

Within Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives, ongoing safety trainings are used to increase safety awareness in day-to-day operations. In addition, by conducting health days, awareness on working ergonomics and a healthy lifestyle was raised.

7. Improving environmental performance of production sites

Business Area Catalysis is determined to improve environmental sustainability of its production sites. At the Severodonetsk, Ukraine, facility, for example, upgrades with new technologies are planned in order to enhance energy and water management. By 2020, a modern evaporation unit will decrease overall energy consumption, and the installation of a reverse osmosis plant for wastewater treatment will introduce water circulation, reducing consumption and releasing cleaner runoff.


A smart cooling tower helped decrease overall electricity consumption of the precommercial plant in Straubing, Germany, by 9%.

Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives initiated several projects as part of Clariant’s eWATCH™ program and the Production System Yield, Energy, Environment (YEE) to reduce resource consumption. In its precommercial plant in Straubing, Germany, a smart cooling tower decreased overall electricity consumption by 9%. In addition, thanks to optimized production protocols, fresh water use and wastewater production are reduced continuously and the costs of wastewater discharge were reduced significantly by first feeding the wastewater to a biogas plant.

Targets 2021

6–9 %

Growth potential per year

26–30 %

EBITDA target margin



6.6 %

R&D spend of sales


Raw material procured
in CHF m

> 110

Active innovation projects


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


Number of raw materials procured


27 726

Training hours


Raw material suppliers



Energy consumption in m kWh




Sales in CHF m

11 %

Growth in local currencies

23.1 %

EBITDA margin before exceptional items


Production volume in m t


2 061

Staff in FTE at year end
(2017: 1 970)



Waste in thousand t

2 7092

Greenhouse gas emissions
in kg/t production

1 For 2018, 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 interim years, including 2018, the reduced reporting scope comprises the larger sites responsible for 95 % of production.

Business Area

In 2013 Clariant adjusted its reporting segments and grouped its businesses with similar end-user markets and growth drivers into four distinct Business Areas: Care Chemicals, Catalysis, Natural Resources, and Plastics & Coatings. View entire glossary

Business Area

In 2013 Clariant adjusted its reporting segments and grouped its businesses with similar end-user markets and growth drivers into four distinct Business Areas: Care Chemicals, Catalysis, Natural Resources, and Plastics & Coatings. 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