Dow and New Energy Blue announce collaboration to develop renewable plastic materials from corn residue
26 May 2023
Today, Dow and New Energy Blue announced a long-term supply agreement in North America in which New Energy Blue will create bio-based ethylene from renewable agricultural residues. Dow expects to purchase this bio-based ethylene, reducing carbon emissions from plastic production, and using it in recyclable applications across transportation, footwear, and packaging.
Dow's agreement with New Energy Blue, staffed by experts with deep experience in bio-conversion ventures, is the first agreement in North America to generate plastic source materials from corn stover (stalks and leaves). This is also Dow's first agreement in North America to utilize agriculture residues for plastic production.
"We are unlocking the value of agriculture residues in this new partnership with New Energy Blue," said Karen S. Carter, Dow President of Packaging & Specialty Products. "By committing to purchase their bio-based ethylene, we are helping to enable innovations in waste recycling, meeting demands for bio-based plastics from customers, and strengthening an ecosystem for diverse and renewable solutions."
Under the terms of the agreement, Dow is supporting the design of New Energy Freedom, a new facility in Mason City, Iowa, that is expected to process 275KT of corn stover per year and produce commercial quantities of second-generation ethanol and clean lignin. Nearly half of the ethanol will be turned into bio-based ethylene feedstock for Dow products. This agreement also gives Dow similar commercial supply options for the next four future New Energy Blue projects, supporting New Energy Blue's ability to scale its production and support farmers by providing a reliable market for agricultural residues. The five projects are expected to displace over one million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every year. Dow's share of these five projects will also lead to a reduction in its sourcing of fossil fuels and subsequent GHG emissions.
This agreement would play a pivotal role in Dow's approach to building material ecosystems that value, source, and transform waste into circular products. By collaborating with the best partners and technologies for collection, reuse, and recycling of waste – in this case, using a renewable resource – Dow enables global material ecosystems to scale.
"This collaboration can help redefine how we source raw materials for our products, allowing us to expand to include renewable feedstocks," said Manav Lahoti, Dow Global Sustainability Director -Olefins, Aromatics & Alternatives. "We're excited by the possibility for agriculture-based plastics to help our company achieve both our Transform the Waste goal and our Net Zero CO2 goal. It also aligns with our ambition to increase renewable resource use, paving the way for future commitments."
"We're excited to be working with Dow to find solutions that create bio-based plastics from renewable resources," said Thomas Corle, CEO of New Energy Blue. "Together, we're building a future not only in the farm fields of Iowa using corn stover, but across America and around the world using a variety of biomass from grain straws to tall perennial grasses—wherever there's an opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from farming, support farmers in rural communities, and enable the production of the sustainable, low-carbon plastics used in everyday life."
Through this agreement, Dow would increase its use of renewable yet still recyclable resources, transforming them into products that consumers use every day. Since corn stover releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it decomposes, Dow's agreement with New Energy Blue would also help reduce carbon emissions from agriculture by reusing this otherwise wasted carbon.
Dow's use of bio-based feedstocks from New Energy Blue is expected to be certified by ISCC Plus, an international sustainability certification program with a focus on traceability of raw materials within the supply chain. While Dow intends to mix agriculture-based ethylene into its existing manufacturing process, ISCC Plus's chain of custody certification would allow Dow's customers to account for bio-based materials in their supply chains.
Dow's supply agreement with New Energy Blue would create additional economic value for farmers by opening a dependable new market. New Energy Blue's forthcoming Iowa processing facility would source corn stover directly from local farmers every year. Because U.S. farmers' grain yield per acre is among the world's highest, their stover density is correspondingly high. By selling their excess stover for biomass refining, they could reap an excellent second income from the same crop while using farming practices that increase carbon retention in the soil.