Toray’s 100% bio-PET via Gevo PX

Let me put this news in before I completely get lost on the incoming busy holiday season.

Japan chemical firm Toray announced last week that it has successfully produced in laboratory scale its 100% renewable-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber using Gevo’s isobutanol-derived paraxylene (PX).  If readers recall the blog’s recent post on Gevo, the companies are currently on the planning stage to establishing commercial-scale operations for the bio-PX, targeting a pilot production next year and commercial production by 2014.

Gevo is also in discussion with a third party for bio-PX joint development agreement which it plans to announce soon.

Toray said it was able to produce terephthalic acid (TPA) synthesized from Gevo’s biobased paraxylene, and combined with commercially available sugar-based monoethylene glycol (MEG), Toray successfully produced in lab scale its first 100% bio-based PET fiber. For those who are not familiar with PET, it is made from 30% MEG and 70% TPA (or PTA – purified terepthalic acid).

Toray claimed this is the first fully renewable PET fiber in the world. In my recent interviews for a bioplastic article that came out today, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo also claimed that they were already able to  also produce 100% bio-based PET in lab scale but I guess a PET bottle is different from a PET fiber.

Toray said around 40m tons/year of polyester fiber (for which PET is the source) is produced worldwide. Toray is also involved in PLA-based plastic developments.

An interesting note during my interview with Coca-Cola is that the company claims there is only one bio-based MEG producer right now in the world (that will be India Glycols according to other sources). I am not sure if Toyota Tsusho’s JV Greencol Taiwan Corp. (GTC) has already started its 100,000 tonne/year bio-MEG plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, as it was expected to start by the end of this year.

Toyota Tsusho has contracted Petrobras last year to supply the bio-ethanol from Brazil — 1.4bn liters (or 378m gal) for 10 years from 2012 — for Greencol’s use. The contract was worth Yen 70bn ( around $911m). Chemtex was awarded the engineering, construction and procurement contract for the Greencol bio-MEG plant.

Also interesting to note that Toyota Motor announced last month that it is using bio-PET plastic (30% bio-MEG, 70% petro-based PTA) in the seat trim, floor carpets and other interior surfaces of its Sai gasoline-electric hybrid car being sold in Japan. AT&T also announced in September that it is now using bio-PET (same 30% biobased by weight) for the packaging of its branded wireless accessories, device cases and power accessories.

Now who else can these companies source its bio-MEG from but Greencol given that the other supplier is busy with Coca-Cola? That is if there really is only one (or now two) bio-MEG supplier out there.

Speaking of which, sources say petro-based EG companies such as Dow Chemical and Brazil-based Braskem and Oxiteno are all eyeing the bio-MEG market given Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s (and other branded companies) plan to use more bio-PET for their packaging in the future.

Now, it’s up to renewable chemical companies to supply the 70% biobased component.

PS

By the way, I am attending two bioplastic conferences next year. One in February organized by Jim Lunt LLC and it’s all about bioplastic feedstock; and the other, I am actually presenting at the Bioplastek forum in March.

It’ll be interesting what 2012 will hold for the bioplastic industry. 

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