French Roquette builds isosorbide plant

Author: Doris De Guzman

2007/09/13

NEW YORK (ICIS News)--French starch-products maker Roquette has built a new isosorbide industrial unit in Lestrem, France, with a capacity of several thousand tonnes/year, a company official said on Thursday.

The unit makes Roquette the largest isosorbide producer worldwide, said Christophe Rupp-Dalem, director of Roquette’s renewable chemistry programme. He would not reveal the cost of the project.

The new unit will produce polymer-grade isosorbide under the trade name Polysorb P. Isosorbide, which is obtained from sorbitol, is being developed worldwide by several companies, including Roquette, and various research organisations for use as a renewable polymer additive.

Isosorbide is a niche product, said Rupp-Dalem, and is currently being used for pharmaceutical applications.

“This unit will fulfil the drastic demands of the polymer industry,” he said. “Isosorbide can be substituted for other diols in order to create new polyesters, polycarbonates and polyurethanes that are partially or even completely bio-based.”

Roquette is also developing derivatives of isosorbide as a substitute for phthalates in the form of isosorbide diesters for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plasticisers and as a green solvent in the form of dimethyl isosorbide.

“Isosorbide is now to be considered as a new chemical platform of interest as it comes from renewable resources and gives access to many derivatives with properties on par or even superior to their counterparts in the petrochemical industry,” said Rupp-Dalem.

The potential global industrial market for isosorbide is 100m lbs (45m kg)/year, according to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), based in the US.

ICPB is currently working with several US companies and research institutes to develop lower-cost corn-starch-based isosorbide production as well as new industrial applications of isosorbide.