Competitive Edge: Avantium’s PEF, FDCA, MEG Hot Tech

November 12, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Consumers and governments across the globe are putting increasing pressure on brands, retailers and the chemical industry to reduce their carbon footprints and embrace the circular economy. Avantium offers unique technological solutions to address the global need to reduce waste, tackle climate change and transition into a circular, sustainable bio-based economy. Our goal is to make economically competitive and scalable chemicals and materials that are produced based on renewable feedstocks, fully recyclable, with a significantly lower carbon footprint, and with superior performance to the petroleum-based alternatives.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Avantium is a chemical technology company, headquartered in Amsterdam, employing approximately 200 people, with extensive R&D laboratories and three pilot plants in Geleen (1) and Delfzijl (2), the Netherlands. We are an innovation-driven company dedicated to developing and commercializing breakthrough technologies for the production of chemicals from renewable sources and circular plastic materials used for a variety of consumer products.

Our lead product is PEF (polyethylene furanoate), a novel, plant-based and fully recyclable plastic material with a powerful combination of environmental and performance features. Field trials show that PEF degrades much faster than widely used conventional plastics. PEF has huge potential in the packaging, film and textile sectors, growing markets worth over $200 billion, where the incumbent plastics like PET are currently sourced from unsustainable fossil feedstocks and stay in the environment for hundreds of years before breaking down.

Q: What stage of development are you?  Choose one:

Demonstration stage – proven at small, integrated scale, but not yet commercially available

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

We have developed a pipeline of novel technologies at various stages of commercialization, with large upside potential. Our most mature platform is our proprietary YXY Technology used to produce FDCA (furandicarboxylic acid, the main building block for PEF (polyethylene furanoate), from industrial sugars, addressing markets worth >$200 billion. Our YXY Technology is one of the most advanced technologies for PEF production across the sector and we expect the first commercial production of FDCA and PEF to begin in 2023.

Our Ray Technology produces sustainable plant-based MEG (monoethylene glycol) that is cost-competitive compared to petroleum-based MEG. Plant-based MEG will supply the future PEF market as well as the large existing PET market (current worldwide annual sales of MEG are $25 billion/year).

A number of other advanced renewable chemical technologies are being explored in our laboratories and their commercial potential and possible routes to market are being evaluated.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

Our YXY Technology catalytically converts sugars into FDCA, a building block for PEF, a 100% plant-based, 100% recyclable plastic. It shows improved barrier properties for carbon dioxide and oxygen, leading to a longer shelf life of packaged products. It also offers higher mechanical strength, which means that thinner PEF packaging can be produced and fewer resources are required. In combination with the plant-based feedstock, that added functionality gives PEF all the attributes required to become the next-generation polyester.

Avantium’s Ray Technology is a highly efficient one-step hydrogenolysis process to produce mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) from plant-based industrial sugars. Avantium can deliver plant-based MEG competitive with incumbent fossil-based MEG, both in terms of quality and cost, while showing sustainability benefits through significantly lower CO2 emissions.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. 07/ 2018: Opening of the Dawn Technology pilot biorefinery in Delfzijl, the Netherlands. Dawn Technology enables the conversion from agricultural and forestry residues to high value chemicals and materials.
  2. 01/2019: Full ownership of the joint venture Synvina, leading to a revised scale-up and market launch strategy for the novel plant-to-plastics YXY Technology to produce PEF
  3. 11/2019: Opening plants-to-glycols demonstration plant to scale up Ray Technology

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

We aim for:

  1. Construction of a 5 KTA commercial plant to produce FDCA and PEF, to be located in Delfzijl, slated to start-up in 2023
  2. Offtake agreements and partnerships for PEF
  3. Validation of technology and economics Ray Technology

Q: Where can I learn more about Avantium?

Click here to visit Avantium’s website.

You can also check out “Scaling Up Renewable Chem: The Digest’s 2020 Multi-Slide Guide to Avantium’s Plant-based Materials” from their ABLC 2020 presentation here.

Or read “Avantium Avengers” on their $27.5 million in funding, the preference for PEFerence, and fantastic FDCA, as reported in The Digest on November 2019 here.

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