S Korea’s LG Chem to invest $8.7bn in new growth areas

Author: Nurluqman Suratman

2021/07/14

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--LG Chem is investing won (W) 10 trillion ($8.7bn) through to 2025 in new business growth areas such as eco-friendly petrochemical products and battery materials, the South Korean producer said on Wednesday.

The company will invest W3 trillion in “sustainability businesses” such as bio materials, recycling, and renewable energy materials, the company said in a statement.

LG Chem plans to start full-scale production of a “bio-balanced” superabsorbent polymer (SAP) this month with ISCC Plus certification and supply it to global customers such as those in the US and Europe, the company said.

Bio-balanced SAP is produced using a combination of bio-renewable raw materials, such as waste cooking oil, and fossil fuels.

ISCC Plus is an international certification for eco-friendly bio products.

LG Chem earlier in September 2019 said that it was reviewing the construction of a bio-SAP plant in North America after it agreed to work with US agribusiness firm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to develop bio-based acrylic acid (AA).

AA is used in the manufacture of SAP.

LG Chem is also looking to start construction of biodegradable polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) production facilities this year, the company said without providing further details.

PBAT is used for agricultural and disposable films and rapidly decomposes into oxygen, heat, light and enzyme reactions in nature.

“As the bioplastics market is expected to grow rapidly from W12 trillion in 2020 to W31 trillion in 2025, [LG Chem] is also actively promoting joint ventures with domestic and foreign raw material companies to stably secure eco-friendly raw materials such as polylactic acid (PLA) made from plant materials such as bio naphtha and corn,” the company said.

LG Chem also plans to strengthen its “mechanical and chemical recycling capabilities” and actively explore new opportunities in the renewable energy industry material market such as polyolefin elastomer (POE) / ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) for solar panels.

POE is a copolymer of ethylene and octene or butene using a unique metallocene catalyst.

LG Chem is also looking to spend W6 trillion to expand its battery materials business, including cathode and separators.

The company's cathode material business plans to start construction of a 60,000 tonne/year plant in Gumi, South Korea in December this year.

The company expects its cathode production capacity to rise to 260,000 tonnes/year in 2026 from 40,000 tonnes/year in 2020.

Separately, LG Chem plans to more than triple its production capacity for carbon nanotubes from the current 1,700 tonnes/year by 2025.

Carbon nanotubes are used as a cathode material for EV batteries with the same electrical and thermal conductivity as copper and diamond and 100 times the strength of steel.

The company is planning to start construction of a third carbon nanotube plant this year following the start-up of a new 1,200 tonne/year unit in April this year.

In life sciences, LG Chem will invest more than W1 trillion with the goal of becoming a “global new drug company with two or more innovative new drugs by 2030 and enter advanced markets such as the US and Europe.”

The company’s life sciences division is concentrating its capabilities on the development of four strategic disease groups: diabetes, metabolism, cancer, and immunity.

($1 = W1,149)