Wacker ready with bioethanol route to acetic acid

19 March 2008 01:59  [Source: ICIS news]

MUNICH (ICIS news) – Germany-based Wacker Chemie was ready to produce acetic acid and polyvinyl acetate (PVA) from bioethanol if prices made the process affordable, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

"The production of bulk chemicals from biogenetic processes rather than from petrochemicals is an important aspect of our R&D efforts," said Fridolin Stary, senior vice president of corporate innovations, at Wacker's international press briefing in Munich. "With the development of second generation biofuels, this will be possible one day soon."

Wacker said it had the technical processes in place. It would employ its BUTOX process involving the catalytic oxidation of bioethanol to produce acetic acid, followed by PVA.

"It's only a matter of economics. On the technical side, we are ready. Once the price becomes competitive in Europe and the US, we are ready to go," said Stary. "Bioethanol production costs in Brazil already make it competitive with naphtha-based ethylene."

The bioethanol to acetic acid and PVA process is part of Wacker's R&D focus on white biotechnology -- the use of biotechnology to produce chemicals and industrial products.

"There is no doubt that in the near future, bio-based chemicals will supplement and partially replace petrochemicals," said Gunter Wich, director of biotechnology and corporate R&D. "We are well positioned to develop new processes as we have expertise in biotransformation, protein production and metabolic engineering."

In 2007, Wacker invested about 4% of its sales of €3.8bn ($5.93bn) on R&D. The company uses PVA in its dispersible polymer powders for use in construction and coatings applications.

 

($1= €0.64)


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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