Renewables advance

02 April 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB Americas]

THE DEVELOPMENT of chemicals made from renewable feedstock continues its snowball effect as the demand for environmentally friendly products heats up worldwide.

Dow announced last month the near commercialization of its propylene glycol (PG) made from vegetable oil-based glycerin. Dow is currently conducting trials with customers and anticipates limited commercial quantities available in mid-2007.

"Our propylene glycol renewable (PGR) provides environmental benefits and is cost competitive," says Mady Bricco, Dow's global product director for propylene oxide (PO)/PG. "Laboratory tests indicate that manufacturing PGR will consume considerably less fresh water than conventional PG. Using PGR will enable customers to exercise their commitment to technologies that consume less fossil fuel and other finite resources."

Dow's business unit Dow Haltermann Custom Processing (DHCP) will produce PGR using glycerin from biodiesel. "It is necessary to refine most crude glycerine to some extent to ensure process consistency. DHCP will conduct pilot trials and eventually full-scale production of PGR at its Houston location," says Bricco.

Demand for PG continues to rise, says Dow, as demand for end-use applications increases. The company recently increased its global PG capacity by 5% to 705,000 tonnes/year through a 35,000 tonne/year PG expansion at its Stade, Germany, plant. Dow plans to add another 45,000 tonnes/year of PG capacity in Stade by 2009.

In the US, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill are also prepping up for their market entrance into the renewable PG industry.

ADM expects its 100,000 tonne/year glycerin-based PG and ethylene glycol plant in Decatur, Ill., to come on line by 2008. Cargill also aims commercialization of its renewable PG by mid-2008 and is currently looking for manufacturing sites around the globe.

Cargill is forming a stand-alone venture company, which will produce and market a platform of glycerin-based products beginning with renewable PG.

Global PG demand is estimated at 1.4m short tons, says Jim Millis, technical director for Cargill Industrial Bioproducts. "PG applications in unsaturated polyester resins account for 34% of the demand followed by functional fluids (21%) food, drug and cosmetics (18%) liquid detergents (11%), and the rest includes pet foods, plasticizers, paints and coatings, tobacco humectant, among others."

Millis also noted the growing new applications and markets for glycerin in his presentation at the recent World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing conference, which was held in Florida

"New alternative uses such as from glycol and epichlorohydrin (ECH) production, and other feed and disposal applications could add about 1.03m tonnes to glycerin's traditional uses," says Millis. "This could balance the growing global glycerin supply, which is expected to reach 2.5m tonnes by 2010."

Citing various industry sources, Millis notes current ECH global capacity at 1.4m tonnes. "Glycerin-based ECH will account for roughly 3.5% or 50,000 tonnes/year this year."

Active and announced glycerin-based ECH projects include Jangsu Yangnong Chemical Group in China Spoelchemie in Czechoslovakia Solvay in France and Dow in China.

Dow says it will build its 150,000 tonne/year glycerin-to-ECH (GTE) plant in Shanghai Chemical Industry Park and expects its startup within 2009-2010. The company signed up Shanghai Chlor-Alkali Chemical Co. and its subsidiary Shanghai Tianyuan Group Huasheng Chemical for the supplying of raw materials.

Dow launched last year a stand-alone, full process GTE demonstration unit at Stade. "The China GTE facility will be the first to use Dow's proprietary technology, which uses glycerin from biodiesel to produce ECH,"says Patrick Ho, president ofDow Epoxy & Specialty Chem-icals. "It will provide significant cost and environmental advantages versus the conventional process technologies.


DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products has partnered with San Diego-based Cryotech Deicing Technology for the marketing of corn-based Susterra propanediol in runway deicing formulations. Cryotech will market the product under Cryotech BX36, which is expected to be available for use at airports next winter.

Recticel, Europe's major flexible foam manufacturer, recently launched in France its Arcadia brand of flexible foams made with Cargill's soy-based BiOH polyols. The company is marketing new grades of the foam for both seating and mattress. Cargill says it has been selling its BiOH polyols to major North American foam manufacturers for the past 18 months. Recticel is the first European company to use Cargill's BiOH polyols in foam products.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded the researchers at N.Y.-based Polytechnic University $2.34m to advance the development of vegetable oil-based plastic that can be dissolved into biodiesel after its use. Polytechnic University has partnered with DNA 2.0, a biotechnology company, to develop enzymes that can synthesize and break the plastic down into biodiesel. The DoD says the technology can not only reduce the amount of packaging waste in military units but will also reduce the amount of new fuel that must be delivered to the units.

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