DSM aims for large-scale bioplastics production by 2012

09 March 2009 16:01  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--Dutch specialties producer DSM expects to have one of the world’s first commercial-scale commodity chemical plants based on renewable feedstocks up and running by 2011 or 2012, the company said on Monday.

The company said it recently started construction on a demonstration plant in Lestrem, France, which will produce several hundred tonnes/year of succinic acid from starch using enzyme-based fermentation technology, rather than traditional oil and natural gas.

If successful, the demonstration plant, which is scheduled for completion at the end of 2009, will then be scaled up to produce several thousand tonnes/year, DSM said.

Fossil-fuel derived succinic acid is currently used as a building block for the production of polymers, resins, food and pharmaceuticals.

In an interview with ICIS news, DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma emphasised the renewable route’s green credentials over fossil fuels technology, which require 40% more energy for production.

“Firstly, it uses renewable raw materials. Also, the manufacturing process consumes carbon dioxide, making it very favourable against climate change.”

One grade of plastics produced from the new process would also be biodegradable, which would be useful for the agricultural films sector, Sijbesma said. 

The new production process could be classified as “first-generation” renewables technology because it uses starch derived from foods such as maize, wheat, peas and potatoes.

But Sijbesma defended the use of these controversial feedstocks, saying the quantities used for chemicals production would be tiny in comparison with the tonnage required for biofuels, which could compete with food production.

The demonstration plant was being built at a site owned by French starch manufacturer Roquette, which will provide feedstocks for the plant. 

Sijbesma said DSM’s primary goal is to become a producer of bioplastics, although the company would consider licensing the technology to other manufacturers.

Renewable feedstock technology could account for 15% of global chemical-industry sales within 10 years, Sijbesma said.

“We could see tens or hundreds of billions of [fossil fuel] sales replaced,” said Sijbesma.

Bookmark Doris de Guzman’s Green Chemicals blog for views on sustainability issues
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By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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