27 September 2001 08:51 [Source: ICIS news]
SINGAPORE (CNI)—Japanese petrochemical major Mitsui Chemicals and Minnesota-based Cargill Dow LLC have entered into a collaboration for the business development of biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA), a Mitsui spokesman told CNI on Thursday.
Mitsui aims to sell the biodegradable PLA as a substitute for petrochemical products and Cargill Dow hopes to expand sales in Japan through the tie-up.
Under the terms of the agreement, Mitsui will receive exclusive business development rights to sell Cargill Dow’s PLA in Japan. Additionally, there will be an exchange of intellectual property and technical information related to PLA application development between the two companies.
Cargill Dow expects to bring onstream 140 000 tonne/year of biodegradable PLA in November this year. Its facility, Natureworks PLA1, is based in Blair, Nebraska.
Mitsui currently operates a pilot plant, which produces several hundred tonne/year of PLA in Japan. The company declined to disclose its exact PLA production capacity.
However, Mitsui did say that production at its pilot plant will be steadily decreased as imports from Cargill Dow are gradually increased. Eventually, the plant will be turned into a research and development centre for the production and application of PLA.
The Japanese company anticipates sales of biodegradable PLA to reach 10 000 tonne/year within two to three years from after the financial year ending 31 March 2002.
Cargill Dow is a 50:50 joint venture of US petrochemical major Dow Chemical and agribusiness giant Cargill, also a US-based company.
PLA is a natural resin made from plant sugars derived from feedstock such as, for instance, corn. The development and manufacture of PLA relies on basic fermentation and distillation as its core chemical process, followed by simple polymerisation to make the polymers.
The PLA fibres have likely applications in injection blow-moulded bottles, foams, emulsions, apparel and chemical intermediates.
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