Brazil Braskem mulls new renewable ethylene, PE capacity

Author: Al Greenwood


HOUSTON (ICIS)--Braskem is considering expanding its production of renewable ethylene and polyethylene (PE), with a a final investment decision (FID) possible in the first half of 2020, an executive said on Friday.

The expansion would most likely be in Brazil, and Braskem is considering it because of rising demand for renewable PE, mainly from Europe and Asia, particularly Japan, said Edison Terra, vice president of Braskem's business unit for polyolefins, renewables and Europe.

Terra made his comments in an interview with ICIS before the annual meeting of the Latin American Petrochemical Association (APLA).

In general, consumers and the companies are demanding products that are made of more sustainable materials.

Plastic companies have been meeting this demand largely by focusing on mechanical and chemical recycling.

However, another way to meet this demand is by making plastics from renewable feedstock.

For nearly a decade, Braskem has been producing renewable PE at its Triunfo site in Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil.

The plant's ethylene is produce by dehydrating ethanol derived from sugarcane in a separate unit. That unit's capacity is 200,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS.

Brazil has some of the world's lowest-cost sugar, giving it a cost advantage against other countries.

Braskem has a research lab in Campinas, Sao Paulo state, that incorporates some of the latest trends in industrial biotechnology, from big data to artificial intelligence.

It also has several recycling initiatives, and the company is now exploring ways to design plastic packaging in ways that would make it easier to recycle, Terra said. The company recently hosted a hackathon, in which teams competed to design plastic packaging that could be more sustainable.

The APLA annual meeting starts on Saturday and runs through Tuesday.

Interview article by Al Greenwood

Image above shows packaging made of PE. Photo by Al Greenwood

Click here to see regulatory targets and a list of chemical and mechanical recyclers on the ICIS Circular Economy topic page.