Glycerine-based chems investment in Malaysia

Two companies announced this week their plans to set up green chem facilities in Malaysia using crude glycerine as feedstock.

France-based renewable chems developer METabolic Explorer said on Tuesday that it will construct a 50,000 tonne/year bio-1,3 propanediol (PDO) plant in Iskandar, Malaysia using crude glycerine as feedstock.

This investment is in partnership with the country’s biotech hub Bio-XCell Sdn. Bhd. The facility is expected to have an initial output of 8,000 tonnes.

The blog is expecting more details of METabolic Explorer’s announcement within the next few days as the company presented its plans this week at the BioMalaysia Conference & Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. (No, I’m not attending – pity – but I’m waiting for updates from other news organization…).

Meanwhile, the blog already posted in July Glycos Biotechnologies’ plans to build a 20,000-40,000 tonne/year biorefinery producing crude glycerine-based isoprene, ethanol and acetone in Malaysia.

The company confirmed this week that it is pushing forward with its plans and GlycosBio is now evaluating partners for construction of the biochemical and R&D facility in Malaysia also under a collaboration with Bio-Xcell.

Further announcements about the construction is expected in Q1 2011. The facility is projected to be complete in 2012.GlycosBio said it plans to focus much of its initial research and development efforts on creating isoprene to support Malaysia’s rubber industry.

By the way, ICIS (the company I’m working for) is monitoring the natural rubber market in Asia and prices seemed to have skyrocketed this year, which in turn are pressuring synthetic rubber prices such as styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) or styrene isoprene butadiene (SIBR). Isoprene is a key feedstock in synthetic rubber manufacturing.

Because of the volatility of the natural rubber market, the search is on for alternative feedstock in synthetic rubber production. Genencor is working with Goodyear for its bio-isoprene in rubber tire application, while biobutanol producer Gevo is working with Lanxess for isobutene, another key material for synthetic rubber manufacturing.

Another importance for both GlycosBio’s and METabolic Explorer’s technologies is that Malaysia is a key producing country when it comes to glycerine and since crude glycerine is an oversupplied global commodity chemical these days, I’m sure the oleochemical industry in Malaysia is waiting with bated breath for both companies’ production success.

1,3 propanediol is currently mainly used as a building block in the production of polymers such as polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) polyester. Applications include textiles, coatings, carpets and thermoplastic films.

One company who is already producing bio-1,3 PDO is DuPont Tate & Lyle Bioproducts using corn as feedstock. GlycosBio actually said that it also has the capability to produce crude glycerine-based PDO. METabolic Explorer estimates the PDO global market at EUR1.3bn ($1.8bn) by 2020. 

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2 Responses to Glycerine-based chems investment in Malaysia

  1. 6 November, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    thanks for that news!
    I guess these companies are the first using crude glycerine as feedstock in the large scale production of commodity chemicals.
    But I wonder why Malaysia has been chosen for these facilities. Is it due to large finacial support of the Malaysian Government or because of the large amout of produced glycerol derived by biodiesel production from palm oil?

  2. Doris de Guzman 16 April, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    I think the answer is both and in the case of glycerol production, Malaysia is a large producer (if not the largest) from fatty acid manufacture as well not just from biodiesel.

    It will be an added benefit to Malaysian fatty acid producers to be able to have higher values attached to their by-product glycerine.

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