Evonik said it has began operating a pilot plant for ω-amino lauric acid (ALS) in Slovenska Lupca, Slovakia, which is being developed as alternative to petroleum-based laurin lactam (LL) monomer.
LL is currently used as feedstock in the manufacture of polyamide 12 (PA 12), which according to reports, is an important chemical for the automobile industry given its used in cable ties, wire insulation, flexible hosing, nozzles, damping cogwheels, flexible cover caps, sheet gaskets, sealing rings, and in other fuel line applications/auto-related parts.
PA 12 has been in very short critical supply worldwide early last year when a fire broke out around March 2012 at Evonik’s cyclododecatriene (CDT) facility in Marl, Germany. CDT is manufactured by cyclotrimerization of butadiene. CDT is used to make laurin lactam.
There are reportedly very few suppliers worldwide of PA-12 namely Evonik, Arkema, Ube Industries and EMS-Grivory. Evonik is the only producer vertically integrated in producing PA-12 using its CDT in Marl.
According to Evonik, ALS will produce the same identical PA 12 compound and over the long run, the entirely new process has the potential to complement the butadiene-based production of PA12. The feedstock used to produce ALS is from palm oil, which Evonik has already been using as a base for various other chemical products.
“In the long term, this new, alternative raw material makes us less dependent on limited fossil resources and provides our back-integrated production a second pillar to stand on,” says Gregor Hetzke, head of Evonik’s Performance Polymers Business Unit.
Evonik is currently in a planning stage for its second petroleum-based PA12 plant to be located in Singapore. Last year, during the PA12 shortage, Evonik said it was able to provide alternative substitutes to its CDT-based PA12 products in the form of VESTAMID Terra DD (PA 10,12), which contains 45% renewable-based materials from castor oil.
Back then, Evonik said it was possible to modify the biobased PA 10,12 polyamides to achieve much of the same material attributes as PA12. Evonik has also begun increasing production capacities of its line of biobased polyamides VESTAMID Terra polymers (that also include bio-based PA 6,10 and PA 10,10) at its Shanghai, China, plant.
A new capacity for the polymerization of the bio-based nylons is supposedly scheduled to operate in the second half of 2013.
No word on when Evonik will start commercial production of its lauric-acid based PA 12.