Braskem to build plant in test using sugar to make plastic bottles

Saturday, Nov 18, 2017

Brazil’s Braskem, the largest producer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas, will build a pilot plant in partnership with Denmark’s Haldor Topsoe to test the use of sugar to produce a key ingredient in PET making.

PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is a widely used thermoplastic resin to manufacture bottles for soda, juices and other drinks. The main ingredient to produce PET is monoethylene glycol (MEG), mainly made from natural gas or petroleum.

There are some cases where MEG is made of renewable sources such as ethanol. But Braskem says its research showed it could reach better industrial yields to produce MEG from sugar than from ethanol.

The pilot plant will be built in Denmark, with the aim of starting operations in 2019. Braskem said late Thursday.

Gustavo Sergi, Braskem’s director for renewable chemicals, told Reuters the plant will initially use sugar made from cane, but that the idea is to have a flexible system.

“We want to be able to also use beet sugar or even second generation sugar, made from biomass”, he said.

Braskem estimates global demand for MEG at between 25 million and 30 million tonnes per year, with 85 percent of that going to PET production.

The company already owns a large plant in Brazil that produces green plastic from sugar cane, which is operating at near full capacity.

“Demand for green plastics continues to grow,” Sergi said, noting that some buyers in other countries have targets to reduce carbon emissions and use that type of plastic to help them meet the goals.

Braskem expects to decide about building a large plant to produce MEG from sugar by 2020 or 2021. The decision will depend on the financial feasibility of the process.

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