The renewable plastic bottle goes commercial: BASF and Avantium to establish JV for biobased plastics, chemicals

March 15, 2016 |

BD-TS-Avantium-031616-smIn the Netherlands, BASF and Avantium have signed a letter of intent and entered into exclusive negotiations to establish a joint venture for the production and marketing of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), as well as marketing of polyethylenefuranoate (PEF), based on this new chemical building block. FDCA is produced from renewable resources.

The JV will use the YXY process developed by Avantium in its laboratories in Amsterdam and pilot plant in Geleen, Netherlands, for the production of FDCA. It is intended to further develop this process as well as to construct a reference plant for the production of FDCA with an annual capacity of up to 50,000 metric tons per year at BASF’s Verbund site in Antwerp, Belgium. The aim is to build up world-leading positions in FDCA and PEF, and subsequently license the technology for industrial scale application.

FDCA and PEF: New materials enabling improved food packaging films and plastic bottles

FDCA is the essential chemical building block for the production of PEF. Compared to conventional plastics, PEF is characterized by improved barrier properties for gases like carbon dioxide and oxygen. This can lead to longer shelf life of packaged products. Due to its higher mechanical strength, thinner PEF packaging can be produced, thus a lower amount of packaging material is necessary. Therefore PEF is particularly suitable for the production of certain food and beverage packaging, for example films and plastic bottles. After use, PEF can be recycled.

The Digest’s 8-Slide Guide to the Plant Bottle is here.

Mitsui expected to play a role

Back in December, Avantium signed an agreement with Mitsui & Co., Ltd. to commercialize 100% biobased chemicals FDCA and PEF in Asia. As part of this agreement, Mitsui has been granted a right to purchase a sizable volume of FDCA from the first commercial FDCA plant to be constructed by Avantium. Avantium and Mitsui have entered into a development and roll out agreement for PEF thin films in Asia and PEF bottles in Japan. Given its outstanding barrier performance, Avantium research demonstrates PEF can bring significant benefits as packaging material for oxygen sensitive goods such as food, beer and health care products. The parties are also partnering to launch and grow the market for other FDCA- based applications such as co-polyesters.

A new 8-Slide Guide to Avantium

We have a new and improved 8-Slide Guide to Avantium with all the latest, and that’s here.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“With the planned joint venture, we want to combine Avantium’s specific production technology and application know-how for FDCA and PEF with the strengths of BASF,” said Dr. Stefan Blank, President of BASF’s Intermediates division. “Of particular importance is our expertise in market development and large-scale production as an established and reliable chemical company in the business of intermediates and polymers,” Blank added.

“The contemplated joint venture with BASF is a major milestone in the development and commercialization of this game-changing technology. Partnering with the number one chemical company in the world, provides us with access to the capabilities that are required to bring this technology to industrialization,” said Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium. “The joint venture will further strengthen the global technology and establish the market leadership for FDCA and PEF. With BASF, we plan to start production of FDCA to enable the first commercial launch of this exciting bio-based material and to further develop and grow the market to its full potential,” van Aken continued.

The Avantium Backstory

Avantium specializes in advanced catalytic research. From 2005 onwards, Avantium has developed a proprietary technology to produce Furanics building blocks from plant based sugars, under the name YXY. These Furanics building blocks are the basis of a next-generation plant-based plastics and chemicals.

The YXY technology is a 2-step chemical, catalytic process to convert sugars to Furan-dicarboxylic acid (FDCA), a biobased alternative to terephthalic acid (TA). Avantium focuses its efforts on using FDCA to produce the polyester, Polyethylene-furanoate (PEF), a 100% biobased material that could replace Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) in large markets such as bottles, fiber and film.

Together with its partners The Coca-Cola Company, Danone and ALPLA the company aims “to make PEF bottles a commercial success. Our proprietary YXY process to make PEF has been proven at pilot plant scale as we are now moving to commercial deployment. Furthermore, PEF has a huge opportunity in materials as fibers, films and other applications. Recently our partners made a new investment in Avantium, which brings us closer to the first commercial scale plant.”

YXY is Avantium’s most advanced technology, but the company is also working on a host of other ground-breaking projects and is providing advanced catalysis research services and systems

The Avantium financial story

In June 2014, Avantium announced that it has closed a financing round of $50 million from a consortium of iconic strategic players. This unique consortium consists of Swire Pacific, The Coca-Cola Company, DANONE, ALPLA, and existing shareholders. Follow on investments were made by existing shareholders Sofinnova Partners, Capricorn Venture Partners, ING Corporate Investments, Aescap Venture, Navitas Capital, Aster Capital and De Hoge Dennen Capital.

PEF and the Plant Bottle

Coca-Cola has sold a gazillion Plant Bottles with 30% renewable content, but wants badly to go to 100%, and is investing to make the major ingredients renewably. What’s the latest?

Three companies are in league with Coke — Avantium, which intends to make a novel molecule, PEF; also, there’s Gevo and Virent, which have developed technology to manufacture the incumbent molecule, paraxylene, renewably.

The companies partnered in 2011, signing multi-year, multi-million dollar Joint Development and Supply Agreements to scale-up Avantium’s plant-based PEF.  In the past, Coca Cola’s PlantBottles have included only 30% plant-based plastic. Virent’s chemical allows the remaining 70% of the bottle to be plant-based.

BASF’s busy renewables agenda

BASF has known collaborations with at least 14 different companies in the renewables space, including Genomatica, Solazyme, Renmatix, Cargill, Novozymes and Succinity.

The Digest’s 8-Slide Guide to BASF is here.

Most recently, last December, BASF and Genomatica expanded the scope of their license agreement for the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process. The parties added certain countries in Southeast Asia to their initial agreement, which focused on North America.

And last fall, BASF and Solazyme launched of the first commercial surfactant derived from microalgae oil, a high performance algal betaine for use in home and personal care applications. Generally speaking, surfactants, which are the “lifting agents,” if you will, that power the work of detergents and shampoos, are made from C12 to C14 medium chain fatty acids, not an area that most algae strains have been naturally evolved to excel in. So it was newsy some time back when Solazyme tipped its development of its Lauric Family, which includes oils with a first-in-kind composition of fatty acid chain lengths that are differentiated from palm kernel and coconut oils by accentuating specific targeted fatty acids between C10 and C14, all while retaining the structuring characteristics of those oils.


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