NatureWorks markets new lactides

US polylactic acid (PLA) plastic producer NatureWorks will soon offer high-purity, polymer grade Ingeo meso-lactide under the brand Ingeo M700 lactide in commercial quantities (about thousands of tons) to be available in 2013.

Samples will be available in 2012, said NatureWorks. The lactide can be used as an intermediate for copolymers, amorphous oligomers and polymers, grafted substrates, resin additives/modifies, adhesives, coatings, elastomers, surfactants, thermosets, and solvents (whew! I didn’t know you can do a lot of stuff with lactides…)

NatureWorks said their M700 lactide is cheaper, easier to process and an overall better alternatives to high-priced racemic lactide and L- and D-lactides in a host of industrial applications.

In order to cope with the future demand, the company said it is expanding its Blair, Nebraska facility, which currently has 140,000 tons/year capacity. NatureWorks has been looking to expand its production capacity and was planning to build a second plant of about 150,000 tons/year somewhere in Asia (previous talks pinpointed Thailand).

The blog wondered if this announcement means the expansion will instead be focused back to the company’s Nebraska plant instead.

A news report by ICIS (subscription required) on May 20 noted comments from a NatureWorks official about high prices for conventional polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) are making PLA a more attractive alternative in North America. Price of NatureWorks’ Ingeo PLA was quoted at that time around 90 cents to $1/lb, delivered in bulk in the US.

Prices for the benchmark PP injection and general purpose PS resin grades were assessed by ICIS at 99 cents to $1.01/lb and $1.00-1.03/lb respectively on a delivered basis for the week ended 13 May.

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