Bioplastic, Company initiatives, Partnership

Lanxess produces biobased PBT with Genomatica

This is the first time that the blog has heard about Germany-based specialty chemical firm Lanxess working on biobased engineering plastic polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) in partnership with US renewable chemicals company Genomatica.

The companies announced today that Lanxess has produced biobased PBT at its 80 ktpy co-owned petro-based PBT production facility in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany, using 20 tons of Genomatica’s 1,4 butanediol (BDO) as one of the raw materials. The Hamm-Uentrop PBT facility is a 50-50 joint venture between Lanxess and DuPont.

PBT production facility in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany

Genomatica and Lanxess said Genomatica’s bio-BDO fully complied with the Lanxess specifications for petro-based BDO allowing a direct feed of 100% bio-based BDO into the facility’s continuous production process. The properties and the quality of the biobased PBT produced are reportedly fully equivalent to conventional petro-based PBT with regards to all tested parameters.

By the way, how much PBT can be produced from a 20-ton BDO? Commercialized PBT is currently produced using petro-based BDO and terephthalic acid (PTA). Lanxess currently manufactures petro-based PBT and its blends under the trademark Pocan®, which is used in automotive, electronics/electrical products, lighting, household appliances, sports, etc.

Lanxess said this production test is a step forward in the company’s plans to offer in the future biobased version of their high technology plastic Pocan®.

“Due to its unchanged properties Pocan® compounds based on bio-based PBT can directly be used in established application fields such as automotive or electric/electronics area. This fits well with our strategy of Green Mobility.” – Lanxess

Lanxess did not disclose further future plans on when it will start producing bio-PBT or if it will start sourcing bio-BDO from Genomatica for future biobased PBT production.

Lanxess, by the way, has opened its 20 ktpy high-technology plastic plant in Gastonia, North Carolina, last year, which will use PBT and polyamides to produce their premium lightweight plastic products.

While Lanxess is focusing on the automotive sector, its PBT JV partner DuPont seems to be focusing on PBT’s application in the electrical/electronics products as the company also produces PBT-based compounds under the trademark DuPont™ Crastin® PBT.

DuPont and LANXESS have been engaged in a manufacturing joint venture for PBT in Hamm-Uentrop since 2004. Another interesting information the blog recalls related to DuPont is that the company has licensed a technology to BioAmber to convert bio-succinic acid to bio-BDO.

Meanwhile, Genomatica has also been working with Japanese chemical firm Toray on PBT. Last April, Toray has successfully produced prototypes of partially biobased PBT engineering plastic components using Genomatica’s bio-BDO.

PBT is the second largest use for BDO, accounting for 29% of all BDO consumed worldwide or an equivalent of 700 ktpy as PBT compound.

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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