Bioplastic, Company initiatives, Conference

Micromidas enters bio-PX research

OPX Biotechnologies and Evonik announced yesterday a development collaboration on bio-based specialty chemicals but unfortunately there is not much information given on the press release and so I am hoping to get something more soon.

MicromidasIn the meantime, California-based Micromidas Inc. recently announced that it has developed a chemocatalytic route to paraxylene from cellulosic biomass (e.g. post-consumer paper products, agricultural residues, wood waste, paper sludge) and ethylene. The blog first heard about the almost five-year old biotech start-up in late 2011 when Micromidas has partnered with Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI) through a $130,000 research funding to develop polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymers from municipal waste.

Micromidas, however, noted that its first commodity chemical that it will produce will be paraxylene, and that recent trials indicated that their process is directly competitive with naphtha-based PX. The building block chemical is used to produce terephthalic acid (PTA), a component in the manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Brand owners like Coca-Cola and Pepsico are currently looking to use a 100% bio-based PET bottle packaging that will be cost-competitive to petroleum-based PET. Coca-Cola is currently using its PlantBottle packaging for its beverages using sugarcane-based monoethylene glycol (MEG), the other component in making PET.

According to Micromidas, it is currently commissioning a pilot plant with a nameplate capacity of 500 kg/day of PX. The company said its highly selective synthesis produces only biobased PX without the presence of meta or orthoxylene monomers. Their process does not involve fermentation.

“Micromidas’s process achieves very high yields, utilizing a 3-step standard chemical conversion with conventional reactor/separation equipment and configurations. The process is highly flexible, capable of handling a wide variety of waste feedstocks such as OCC, rice hulls, empty palm fruit bunches, paper sludge, and wood chips.”

The company is planning to discuss the specific advantages of its chemical pathway, the economics of its process and current scale and status of its technology at the incoming Bioplastek conference, which will be held in San Francisco, California, on June 26-28.

Early this year, Micromidas said it has raised $13m in its latest round of financing bringing total capital raised by the company to $25m primarily from the Buff Group and Evergreen Capital. The funding is expected to be used for the building of a demonstration-scale plant in West Sacramento, which the company hopes to be up and running by the first quarter of 2014.

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.


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