Avantium commercialising PEF production

Article by Amanda Jasi

CHEMICALS company Avantium is commercialising production of polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a 100% renewable and fully recyclable polymer.

PEF is a polyester based on bio-based 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG). FDCA is used as a replacement for terephthalic acid, a petroleum-based monomer which is primarily used to produce polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The bioplastic PEF is suitable for bottles, fibres, and multiple film types. Polymerisation to produce PEF has been successfully initiated at pilot plant scale.

FDCA is the main building block used in Avantium’s bio-based products and it can be applied in a wide variety of industrial plastics, including bottles, textiles, and food packaging.

PEF and FDCA are produced by Synvania, which was established in 2016. Previously a joint-venture between Avantium and chemistry company BASF, Synvania has been wholly-owned by Avantium since January. After gaining complete ownership Avantium developed a revised scale-up and market launch strategy for its novel YXY technology, which “catalytically converts plant-based sugars into a wide range of chemicals and plastics, such as PEF”.

The revised plan includes a “cash-flow positive flagship” plant which is to have a 5,000 t/y capacity for both FDCA and PEF. Design of the plant has commenced with engineering services company Worley (formerly WorleyParsons, before its acquisition of the energy, chemicals and resources division of Jacobs Engineering). Worley will carry out detailed engineering studies.

Site selection for the plant, to be in northwestern continental Europe, is expected in the second half of 2019, and an investment decision for construction is expected at the end of 2020. The plant is expected to begin operations in 2023.

Products from the plant are intended for use in high-value markets and performance applications, such as high-barrier films and specialty bottles.

Under the revised plan Avantium also intends to maintain control of YXY whilst building a network of partners throughout the value chain, and to change the name of Synvania to Avantium Renewable Polymers.

Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium, said: “We strongly believe in our YXY technology and the unique properties of PEF and are steadfastly moving towards commercialisation.”

“As we progress our learning curve and increase scale in the future, PEF will be able to compete in high-volume markets, including bottles for carbonated soft drinks and other beverages. Our strategy of building and nurturing value chain partnerships remains of pivotal importance on our path to global commercialisation.”

Currently, Synvania produces FDCA at its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands, based on fructose as a renewable material. FDCA is polymerised to PEF by external partners.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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