Uhde expands into PBS processing

Some of the blog’s readers might be already familiar with biodegradable polymer polybutylene succinate (PBS) if they have been following developments within the biobased succinic acid and 1,4 butanediol (BDO). PBS available in the market is currently manufactured using petrochemical-based succinic acid and BDO.

European engineering company Uhde Inventa-Fischer announced last week that it is now offering to build facilities that can produce at least 40,000 tonnes/year of renewable-based PBS (can be completely or partially bio-based) using Uhde’s patented energy-efficient process reactors under the trademark ESPREE and DISCAGE.  

Uhde’s ThyssenKrupp business has also developed a bio-based succinic acid processing technology in collaboration with US-based producer Myriant. 
The companies confirmed that it is currently building a pilot plant in Leuna, Germany, for producing succinic acid from glucose. The pilot plant is expected to start in the third quarter of 2012.

Uhde said more details will soon be announced and when an ICIS colleague tried to contact Myriant, a spokesperson noted that they will make an announcement regarding their collaboration with Uhde in 6-8 weeks. The blog previously reported the pilot plant capacity is somewhere around 5,000 tonnes/year.

The green blog has been keenly following activities within the PBS market and according to Mitsubishi Chemical, which is one of the very few PBS producers out there, the global market is currently at 5,000-6,000 tonnes/year. This is expected to grow to 50,000 tonnes/year in the next five years, according to Mitsubishi Chemical.

Aside from Mitsubishi Chemical, current PBS producers include Showa Denko K.K. (SDK), Samsung Fine Chemical, several Chinese firms such as Kingfa Science & Technology, Zhejiang Hangzhou Xinfu Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Hanqing Hexing Chemical Co. Ltd., and China New Materials.

According to this April article from Plastics News, China New Materials is planning to start a 55m lb/year (25,000 tonnes/year) PBS plant in Zibo City, Shandong, but did not mention any time frame. The company is currently producing its own petroleum-based BDO.

China New Materials is said to be looking to sell its petroleum-based PBS to US plastic processors.

Kingfa Science & Technology just started its new 66m lb/year petroleum-based PBS co-adipate (PBSA) facility in Zhuhai last year in August, and is said to be planning to add 132m lb/year capacity. The green blog’s sources indicated that the new capacity could probably be online by October.

Plastics News noted that Kingfa’s PBSA products are mostly exported to Europe to make shopping bags, trash bags, toys and food-service products.

Xinfu Pharmaceutical said it has PBS production capacity of 28.7m lbs/year and sells half of it to Europe. According to Plastics News’ article, Xinfu mentioned US PBS sales are less than 220m lbs or 90,000 tonnes — but this might be an error (probably just 22m lbs or 10,000 tonnes) since estimated global PBS production is lower than this figure. (Unless Xinfu is including PBS blends??)

Within the biobased PBS activities, SDK has partnered with Myriant this year for the supply of bio-succinic acid for their PBS.

The blog does wonder if there is a plan by SDK to build a new bio-PBS facility given that its competitor Mitsubishi Chemical is now building a 20,000 tonne/year bio-PBS facility in Thailand, which is expected to start in 2014 through its joint venture with PTT Plc called PTT MCC Biochem.

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