Avantium starts bio-polyester pilot plant

Last week, Avantium announced the start-up of its furanics-based polyester pilot plant at the Chemelot site in Geleen, the Netherlands. The green blog has been following Avantium’s development of its platform chemical 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) which will be marketed under the brand name YXY (pronounced ~ ixy).

Avantium CEO Tom van Aken said the 5 ton/year polyester pilot plant is part of a bigger pilot plant that the company is building at the site to demonstrate its YXY technology. The second pilot plant will produce 40 ton/year FDCA monomer, which is expected to come onstream in the second half of 2011. 

“When necessary we will be able to produce larger volumes of FDCA based polyesters such as PEF (poly-ethylene-furanoate) by using existing PET plants — no retrofitting needed once we have larger volumes of FDCA monomer available.” – Tom van Aken

Now, the YXY polyester pilot plant, according to Avantium, will be used to produce, develop and testing of biobased polyesters such as PEF, which is expected to compete with petroleum-based polyesters such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The company said their PEF has already demonstrated superior properties such as barrier properties and ability to withstand heat.

As the blog reported before, Avantium is collaborating with industrial partners such as NatureWorks and Teijin Aramid to develop novel materials on basis of its YXY building blocks. Possible applications include water and soft drink bottles, carpets, textiles, high-performance fibers, coatings and plasticizers.

Last year, Avantium indicated plans to have a demonstration plant of around 1,000 ton/year in 2012 and an industrial plant with capacities between 10,000 and 100,000 tons/year is expected by late 2014. Van Aken said the company envisions their PEF bottles will be commercially available in the 2014-2015 timeframe.

“As you know there is a very strong demand from brand owners for 100% biobased and 100% recyclable bottles. We believe that PEF will be price competitive and will have superior properties in comparison to PET bottles. The bottleneck today is the limited availability of the material; with the pilot plant we are taking an important step to make larger volumes available for application development (not only bottles, but also fiber, film and high-end applications such as engineering plastics).”

When asked about their feedstock, Avantium said the pilot plant is currently using fructose or glucose syrups but the strategy is to work towards using non-edible carbohydrates such as (hemi)-cellulose-based carbohydrates.

“We continue to undertake process R&D for next generation feeds to ensure feedstock diversity and to further enhance the LCA of our products, which we believe will be significantly better than all other bioplastics on the market.” – Tom van Aken

[Aerial view of Avantium's pilot facility in the Netherlands]

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