Bioplastic, Company initiatives, Products

Toray, Genomatica advances bio-PBT development

Here is another exciting news, this one from Genomatica and Japanese chemical firm Toray.

The companies said Toray has successfully produced prototypes of molded partially bio-based PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) engineering plastic components using Genomatica’s bio-based 1,4 butanediol (BDO). PBT is currently produced by polymerizing petroleum-based BDO and terephthalic acid (TPA).

Sample molded parts made with partial bio-based PBT

Toray has been working on the biobased PBT with Genomatica for more than two years and produced the first PBT pellets made with bio-BDO samples in February 2011. Toray said the partially bio-based PBT has physical properties and formability equivalent to PBT made with petroleum-derived BDO.

PBT is used in wide-ranging applications from automobile parts such as switches and ignition coils to electrical parts like connectors and plugs. The polymer is reportedly the second largest use for BDO, accounting for 29% of all BDO consumed worldwide or an equivalent of 700,000 tons/year as PBT compound.

Toray plans to produce a bio-based PBT at commercial scale using Genomatica’s bio-BDO process. Toray said it will share samples of bio-based PBT with its customers this year to help develop market demand. Toray then expects to bring products to market as soon as supplies of bio-based BDO are readily available from one of the producers that Genomatica licenses to use its BDO process.

Of course I have to ask Genomatica who can that future bio-BDO producer be, and of course the company declined to comment on that. Genomatica currently has a bio-BDO joint venture with France Italy-based bioplastic producer Novamont.

Early this year, Novamont purchased an amino acid facility in Adria, Italy, owned by BioItalia (a business of Ajinomoto), with the intent of converting the facility into producing bio-based 1,4 BDO. The newly converted facility will have a production capacity of 20,000 tonnes/year and is expected to start production by the end of 2013. However, Novamont said it will consume the BDO for its own internal use to meet increasing demand for its biopolymer products that incorporate BDO as a key monomer.

Genomatica is also working on a partnership deal with Mitsubishi Chemical for bio-BDO production in Asia, which might be a better candidate to supply Toray with Genomatica’s bio-BDO. But then there are several petroleum-based BDO producers in Asia that could also soon produce bio-BDO using Genomatica’s process.

In fact, BASF’s Malaysian subsidiary BASF Petronas Chemicals is currently supplying petroleum-based BDO to Toray BASF PBT Resin Sdn Bhd – a 50/50 JV between Toray and BASF that manufactures PBT in a 60,000 tonnes/year facility based in Kuantan, Malaysia.

BASF can also license Genomatica’s bio-BDO if it is cost competitive enough compared to petroleum-based BDO and even compared to bio-succinic acid-derived BDO.

And yes, there is also a possibility in the future that a 100% bio-based PBT could be manufactured with the current race to develop bio-based terephthalic acid.

About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


2 Responses to “Toray, Genomatica advances bio-PBT development”

  1. Ciao! Novamont is Italy-based, not France-based 🙂
    Thanks for the update. Very interesting!!

    Posted by alecph | April 25, 2013, 4:14 am

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