Focus on Bioplastics

Excerpt: Green Biologics, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Green Biologics Ltd., a U.K. industrial biotechnology and renewable chemicals company, announced today an exclusive collaboration

Jungbunzlauer and Green Biologics Partner on bio-based plasticizers

Renewable Tributyl Citrate and Acetyl Tributyl Citrate is focus of collaboration

Green Biologics, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Green Biologics Ltd., a U.K. industrial biotechnology and renewable chemicals company, announced today an exclusive collaboration with Jungbunzlauer Ladenburg GmbH, the German operating unit of Jungbunzlauer Suisse AG in Basel, Switzerland. In February 2017, Jungbunzlauer received its first shipment of 100 percent renewable BioPure n-butanol from Green Biologics' production facility in Little Falls, Minnesota. Jungbunzlauer aims to produce bio-based CITROFOL BI (tributyl citrate) and bio-based CITROFOL BII (acetyl tributyl citrate) for its customers with commercial shipments beginning next month.

“Jungbunzlauer is an outstanding collaboration partner for Green Biologics,” said Timothy G. Staub, Global Vice President of Business Development for Green Biologics. “As the global leader in natural ingredients built off its core strengths in citric, lactic, and gluconic acids, and xanthan gums, Jungbunzlauer has been committed to sustainability for 150 years. We are delighted to be working exclusively with Jungbunzlauer on the global introduction of bio-based citrate derivatives.”

Green Biologics announced the start-up of its first commercial production facility for renewable n-butanol and acetone in December 2016, with its first bulk export shipment to Jungbunzlauer in mid-January.

“Our focus is to selectively move our renewable n-butanol and acetone into high value markets, and Jungbunzlauer is a superb technological and market-facing partner for Green Biologics, particularly in citric based plasticizers, but in other bio-based esters as well,” added Staub.

“Sustainability has been a key principle of Jungbunzlauer since our founding in 1867. With our mission “From nature to ingredients,” we believe that renewable products are essential for the future success of our customers in many evolving markets, including our CITROFOL BI and CITROFOL BII customers,” said HansPeter.

Froschauer, Product Group Manager of Specialties at Jungbunzlauer Ladenburg GmbH. “The opportunity for bio-based plasticizers in personal care, healthcare, bio-polymers and many other industrial applications is immense and it is global. We look forward to a long and successful collaboration with Green Biologics.”

Green Biologics is a member of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and is building its new green solvents facility to meet Responsible Care standards. The company's n-butanol and acetone have received 100 percent bio-based, USDA BioPreferred status.

Green Biologics Ltd. (GBL) is a renewable specialty chemicals company based in Abingdon, England with a wholly owned U.S. operating company, Green Biologics Inc., based in Ashland, Virginia. Green Biologics is transforming the global specialty chemicals market, providing its customers with products and technologies that are more sustainable and higher value than petroleum-based alternatives. Jungbunzlauer is one of the world's leading producers of biodegradable ingredients of natural origin. For more information, visit www.greenbiologics.com.

Pilot-scale sustainable polycarbonate polyol from Repsol

REPSOL has opened a pilot plant at its Puertollano, Spain site for the production of sustainable polycarbonate polyols.

The new pilot plant is part of a project aimed at developing an innovative and pioneering process for manufacturing a polycarbonate polyol, in which part of the fossil-based propylene oxide currently used is replaced by CO2. Use of this abundant and sustainable alternative raw material can reduce the environmental footprint, considerably cutting emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, says the Spain-based energy company.

The new polyol joins a portfolio of polyols supplied by Repsol , which offer a wide range of alternatives to meet the specific needs of customers.

Repsol has worked together with selected customers who have manufactured products with this innovative polyol. Additional advantages of this new polycarbonate polyol are that, it enhances certain properties of different CASE applications. According to Repsol, the new polyol offers offer enhanced adherence and elasticity in adhesives and elastomers compared with conventional polyols. They also have specific properties, allowing them to be applied in other ways in the future.

Repsol has already started production of its polycarbonate polyol in the pilot plant located in Puertollano, Spain. The new polyol produced at this plant has a CO2 content of 20%.

According to Repsol, it is “a step forward for a more ambitious project at industrial scale” and with it, the company “reinforces its commitment to innovation, sustainability and contributing to a better environment”.

Bio-based polymers worldwide: Ongoing growth despite difficult market environment

The worldwide production capacity for bio-based polymers grew by 4% to 6.6 Million tonnes from 2015 to 2016. This represents a share of 2% of the global polymer market. The bio-based polymer turnover was about €13 billion worldwide in 2016 compared to €11 billion in 2014. Production capacity of bio-based polymers is forecasted to increase from 6.6 million tonnes in 2016 to 8.5 million tonnes by 2021.

The development of the bio-based polymer market aligns to the overall growth rate of the polymer market as a whole. In contrast to a 10% annual growth between 2012 and 2014, the capacity growth data now show a 4% annual growth rate from 2015 to 2021. This is almost the same as for the overall global polymer capacity. The main reasons for this slower increase in capacity are low oil prices, poor political support and a slower than expected growth of the capacity utilization rate.

Not all bio-based polymers are biodegradable, but some important ones are, e.g. polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), polylactic acid (PLA) and starch blends. Strong political support can only be found in Italy and France for biodegradable solutions in the packaging sector. In this sector, the global demand for biodegradable packaging still shows a double digit growth. Additional demand could come from the increasing microplastic problem (marine littering), but so far biodegradable plastics have not benefitted from this debate.

The most dynamic development is foreseen for the new bio-based polymers polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which belong to the big family of different polymers. PHA production capacity was still small in 2016 and is projected to almost triple by 2021.

The second most dynamic development is foreseen for polyamides (PA), whose production capacity is expected to almost double by 2021. Bio-based drop-in PET and new bio-based polymer PLA are showing approximately 10% annual growth rates.

Bio-based building blocks show vivid market development

In addition to bio-based polymers, the nova market report studies seventeen bio-based building blocks as precursor of bio-based polymers. The total production capacity of the bio-based building blocks reviewed in the report was 2.4 million tonnes in 2016 and is expected to reach 3.5 million tonnes in 2021, which means an annual growth of 8%.

The building block market shows a more vivid development than the bio-based polymer market. The bio-based building block annual capacity growth rate is twice as high. The most dynamic developments are spearheaded by succinic acid and 1,4-BDO, with monoethylene glycol (MEG) as a distant runner-up. Bio-based MEG, L-lactic acid (L-LA), ethylene and epichlorohydrin are relatively well established on the market.

Market outlook on bio-based polymers in several market fields

Most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia because of better access to feedstock and a promotive political framework. Europe's share and North America's share are projected to decrease slightly.

Most bio-based polymers are consumed by the packaging industry. The major part of this is rigid packaging (bottles and others) and the rest as flexible packaging (films and others). This is not surprising since bio-based PET (mostly used to produce bottles) is one of the biggest bio-based polymers in terms of capacity.

The packaging industry has a considerable interest in biodegradability since packaging is only needed for short time use but in big quantities. This contributes to the accumulation of waste. Biodegradable polymers can be one possible solution to solve this problem.

The biodegradation of different polymers takes place in different environments; some polymers need industrial composting, others work also in home composting and a limited number also in soil, fresh water or even in the ocean. Therefore, biodegradation of polymers is also interesting for agriculture and horticulture applications (e. g. mulch films).

However, besides the packaging sector, bio-based polymers are also used in many different other market segments, mainly in durable applications such as construction or high-performance automotive applications.

The nova market report is unique and shows the most comprehensive data ever published

nova-Institute's market study “Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers – Global Capacities and Trends 2016 – 2021” is unique and gives the most comprehensive insight into the bio-based world market with latest data on capacities and applications for all relevant bio-based building blocks and polymers. The report shows real data for the year 2016 and a forecast for 2021. The data are collected by a high-level biopolymer expert group from Asia, Europe and the US with direct contact to the leading bio-based building block and polymer producers in the world. The data of the annual nova market report is regularly used by leading brands of the industry and constitutes the basis of European Bioplastics' annual market update, relying on the proven high and outstanding quality of nova-Institute's research.

Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics: “…including an annual global market data update, for which we rely on the longstanding market research expertise of nova-Institute. Our market data update 2016 has been conducted together with nova-Institute and is based on the study 'Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers', from which we extract the data for our defined scope of new economy bioplastics.”

The nova report provides insight into the future developments of the bio-based building block and polymer markets worldwide. Companies benefit from solid data and market analyses of renowned experts with specialist knowledge and long years of expertise.

The report contains more than 50 figures and 140 tables, production capacities in North and South America, Asia and Europe from 2011 to 2021 for seventeen bio-based building-blocks and thirteen polymers, and the different application sectors per polymer. In addition, the report shows detailed company profiles of 104 companies, which produce 70 different bio-based building-blocks and polymers.

In total, the report has 249 pages and is available for 2,000 € at www.bio-based.eu/reports.

French laws to support bio-based, compostable plastics

EUROPEAN Bioplastics, a trade group that represents the bioplastics industry, has welcomed new French laws created to support bio-based, compostable plastics to some packaging, such as fruit and vegetable bags.

The French parliament this week adopted the law on energy transition and green growth proposed by Ségolène Royal, minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy.

European Bioplastics chairman François de Bie said: “We fully support the clear commitment to plastics which are biobased and biodegradable.”

Besides plans to reduce the share of nuclear power in the French energy mix, the law contains a wide range of legislative proposals, for example, on renewables (40 percent by 2030) and CO2 reduction (a 40 percent decrease by 2030).

Bioplastic lightweight bags for fruits and vegetables, for example, will need to be bio-based and compostable in home composting starting Jan. 1, 2017.

Furthermore, plastic packaging for commercial mail will have to be biodegradable/compostable in home composting in the same timeframe.

“France has taken a step forward to the responsible consumption of plastic materials and to treating waste as a valuable resource. Bioplastic materials will contribute their share to its environmentally responsible economic growth,” de Bie added.

Fraunhofer IAP researchers produce biofibers from Silk for possible use in plastics

INNOVATIVE biofibers made from a silk protein of the green lacewing are being developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in conjunction with the company AMSilk GmbH. Researchers are working on producing the protein in large quantities by using biotechnology.

The aim is to use the material in the future as a high-grade rigid fiber in lightweight plastics in transportation technology. It can also be conceivably used in medical technology, for example, as a biocompatible silk coating on implants.

In order to protect their offspring from being eaten by predators near the ground, green lacewings deposit their eggs on the underside of leaves – on the ends of stable silk threads. These so-called egg stalks are only around 15 micrometers thick and can easily hold the weight of the eggs. In order to produce these impressive fibers, the green lacewing excretes a protein secretion onto the leaf. The egg is then laid in the droplet and perpendicularly pulled out from the leaf. The resulting silk thread then hardens in the air.

“Unlike most other types of silk, the green lacewing's egg stalk has a special structure with fascinating mechanical properties: Green lacewing silk is extremely rigid and stable. We would like to transfer these special properties to fibers made from this silk. However, until now it has not been possible to produce this type of silk protein in sufficient quantities and purities, “explains Martin Schmidt, biotechnologist at the Fraunhofer IAP in Potsdam-Golm.

In a joint project with the company AMSilk GmbH, the researcher is working on manufacturing large amounts of green lacewing silk protein with the aid of bacteria using a biotech process. A team led by Professor Thomas Scheibel from the Chair of Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth conducted the preliminary molecular-biological work. They constructed a special gene sequence which enables bacteria to produce the silk protein. Martin Schmidt is now optimizing the manufacturing process at the Fraunhofer IAP so that the silk protein can be produced inexpensively on an industrial scale. After this step it will be possible to develop the material.

Developing Silk-based Biopolymers

AMSilk supports the project by conducting molecular biological work and by contributing its wide-ranging expertise in the field of silk analysis and production. The medium-sized company from Martinsried has been successfully developing silk-based biopolymers for various applications for years.“ We have been able to establish our silk technology and our first products are already available on the market. While the Biosteel fiber we use is modeled after spider silk and is more soft and flexible, green lacewing silk is very rigid. This special property makes it interesting for medical technology and as a reinforcement fiber in lightweight engineering, for example in cars, airplanes or ships. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Fraunhofer IAP, which is able to lend its expertise to this project in every area – from the development of the silk material to the finished fiber,“ explains Dr. Lin Römer, scientific director of AMSilk.

The project is being funded by the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), a project management organization of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

For 25 years the Fraunhofer IAP has specialized in the development and characterization of fibers and fiber-reinforced composites for lightweightengineering and in the development of biobased polymers. At the institute's own spinning plant, technical fibers can be manufactured on an industrial scale either from a solution or a melt. “Combining biotechnology and polymer research under one roof creates ideal conditions to produce fibers made from green lacewing silk. This is an enormous advantage for the development of innovative fields of application,“ says Schmidt.”

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