Scientific article

Surfactant production and use in Germany: resource requirements and CO2 emissions

Published inResources, conservation and recycling, vol. 25, p. 61-78
Publication date1999

Surfactants (surface-active agents) can be derived from both petrochemical feedstocks and renewable resources (e.g. oleochemicals). Renewable resources have the advantage that they contribute less to the greenhouse effect if harvested and grown sustainably. When comparing the contribution to the greenhouse effect, the life-cycle of the product should be analysed, covering the CO2 emissions from production, use and degradation after disposal. In this paper, the use phase is only included for washing and cleaning agents since it is practically impossible to cover all the utilization processes for surfactants. At present, biomass-derived raw materials account for about one third of the material feedstocks for surfactant production in Germany. Within this partial life-cycle inventory, it was calculated that fossil CO2 emissions of the commercially most important surfactants produced in Germany amounted to 1.5 Mt in 1996 (versus total chemical industry emissions of 125 Mt, including the equivalents of feedstock energy). Already today, the production of oleochemical feedstocks avoids the emission of 0.35 Mt of fossil CO2 p.a. (1996). Total substitution of oleochemical surfactants for petrochemical surfactants would enable a further reduction of 34%, reducing absolute emissions to 0.99 Mt. This is an overestimation of today's technical potential, but it might be attainable in the longer term. For surfactant applications in laundry detergents, lowering wash temperatures is also an interesting strategy to reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Surfactants
  • Material flow analysis
  • CO2 emissions
  • Emission reduction
  • Life-cycle
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
PATEL, Martin, THEISS, A., WORRELL, Ernst. Surfactant production and use in Germany: resource requirements and CO<sub>2</sub> emissions. In: Resources, conservation and recycling, 1999, vol. 25, p. 61–78.
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
  • PID : unige:44164
ISSN of the journal0921-3449

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