First bio-EPDM rubber by Lanxess

I have been working on this week’s news roundup when I came across Lanxess’ news today about its planned bio-based EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene) monomer production in Brazil using sugarcane as feedstock for the ethylene component.

Braskem will supply the bio-ethylene via pipeline to Lanxess’ EPDM plant in Triunfo, Brazil. Lanxess said this will be the first form of biobased EPDM rubber in the world. According to ICIS, EPDM is the third most-used synthetic rubber after styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and butadiene rubber.

Interesting news given that the blog has been talking to the Lanxess people two weeks ago on their plans for bio-based butadiene rubber. They said they were looking into it but of course did not specify what companies they are particularly looking at that have bio-BD technologies at work.

You can read more of the Lanxess interview on ICIS Chemical Business‘ September 18 issue (free article!)

Lanxess said their Triunfo plant produces 40,000 tonnes/year of regular EPDM rubber and it is expected that the first batches of the product “Keltan Eco” will be around several hundred tonnes. EPDM is commonly used in the automotive industry but also in plastics modification, cable and wire, construction and oil additives.

I am not sure how much ethylene is used in average for each ton of EPDM produced but the blog will try to find out. In May this year, Lanxess just acquired DSM’s elastomers business in the Netherlands which operates a 160,000 tonne/year EPDM facility at Sittard-Geleen. The Triunfo facility is actually part of the acquired elastomer business as well. Lanxess also produces EPDM in Marl, Germany and Orange Texas, US.

Lanxess said all of the EPDM grades will be sold in the future under the brand name Keltan although I am not sure if all of them will be converted into biobased materials in the future as the company has to think about bio-ethylene suppliers in Europe and US (especially considering feedstock options for bio-ethylene). One thing I can see is that bio-propylene made from sugarcane is another option that Lanxess can use as soon as Braskem can commercially produce them.

By the way, Dow Chemical is also a major EPDM producer with around 110,000 tonne/year capacity in Louisiana, US. As readers might recall, Dow is also working on their own bio-ethylene project in Brazil with Mitsui as its partner. The interesting part is that Mitsui is also an EPDM producer in Japan =).

In an article today from ICIS News, Lanxess said it will benefit from an expected increase in demand for its high-performance rubber products once the tire-labelling law in the Europe takes effect next year. The legislation requires that all tyres be classified based on fuel efficiency, among other parameters.

“Because of the EU tire labelling initiative, the market share of ‘green tires’ made of high-performance rubber will increase from its present 35% to around 50% of the overall tire market,” LANXESS said.

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