Mitsubishi picks BioAmber for succinic supply

Ok, so I was wrong when I assumed Myriant Technologies will be involved with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation’s (MCC) planned bio-polybutylene succinate (bio-Pbs) joint venture with PTT Limited.

Just got the news this morning that BioAmber was picked as the exclusive succinic acid distributor for Mitsubishi’s PbS. According to the press release, BioAmber, its Asian distribution partner Mitsui & Co., and Mitsubishi are also planning to conduct a feasibility study to build a succinic acid production facility next to Mitsubishi’s planned renewable-based PbS production plant in Thailand.

 In March, Mitsubishi formed a joint venture named PTT MCC Biochem Company with Thailand-based PTT Limited to produce renewable-based PbS. The companies did not mention any specifics on PbS capacity or location in Thailand. I am trying to reach MCC for comments but unfortunately time zone is a big hindrance when I don’t have email address to reach their media relations.

As previously mentioned in my blog, MCC indicated in their last annual report (in December) that target production for renewable-based PbS in Thailand was around 20,000 tons/year, expected to start by fiscal year 2015. MCC is currently producing petroleum-based biodegradable PbS in Japan under the brand GS Pla. I have been checking some of our archives on ICIS.com. and found one article dated June 4 last year, which noted MCC’s PbS capacity in Japan at 3,000 tonnes/year.

For those who are curious about PbS, it is currently made from petrochemical-based succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). Both chemicals can now be derived from plant raw materials and so we will probably see 100% renewable-based PbS in the market soon. As I recall, BioAmber’s subsidiary Sinoven Biopolymers also produces modified PbS in China, where it sources PbS from third parties and subsequently modifies it.

Back to the press release, I asked BioAmber CEO Jean-Francois Huc how much succinic acid is expected to be produced if it will be integrated in MCC’s planned PbS in Thailand. He noted that “it will be sufficiently sized to provide MCC’s needs as well as extra capacity for other succinic acid needs in Asia.”

Feedstock for the plant could come from sugarcane and tapioca, which Huc said is abundant in Thailand.

BioAmber said it has already begun supplying MCC’s PbS plant in Japan with biobased succinic acid produced at its Pomacle, France facility. BioAmber also secured the right to source biobased PbS from MCC for its modified PbS polymers marketed by Sinoven.

MCC said partnering with BioAmber will drive down the cost of their PbS, make their PbS over 50% renewable, and accelerate sales growth.

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