Issue Date: January 24, 2011
Banking On Green Chemistry
Aiming for leadership in bio-based chemicals, PTT Chemical, Thailand's largest petrochemical producer, has invested $60 million in Myriant Technologies, a Quincy, Mass.-based firm that plans to build the world's largest bio-based succinic acid facility in Louisiana.
The investment is the second significant development in recent weeks for Myriant. Earlier this month, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the imminent start of construction on Myriant's succinic acid facility, in Port of Lake Providence. The $80 million plant will have annual capacity of 30 million lb of succinic acid made via fermentation of renewable raw materials.
What's more, the two firms have signed a letter of intent for a joint venture that will deploy Myriant's technology in Southeast Asia.
Today, most succinic acid is produced synthetically for small-volume uses in pigments, pharmaceuticals, and metal plating. Myriant and other proponents claim that biobased succinic acid can be made at a lower cost, opening big markets in plastics, fibers, and detergents.
PTT Chemical says the combination of its R&D capabilities and Myriant's technology will advance "the manufacturing of green chemicals using the abundant, high-quality biobased feedstock available in Thailand and the Asian region." The firm says the new venture is partly a response to a Thai government policy that encourages the private sector to set up bioplastics plants in the country. PTT Chemical's largest shareholder is PTT, Thailand's national oil company.
Several other companies are also developing bio-based succinic acid. Bioamber opened a demonstration-scale plant in France in 2009 and plans to ramp up production there to about 7 million lb per year by the end of 2011. BASF is working with Dutch firm CSM to isolate a new bacterium for succinic acid fermentation with an eye to starting production. And Reverdia, a joint venture between DSM and Roquette, plans to scale up from a demonstration plant in Lestrem, France.
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