Tuesday 31 July 2012

The Age of Bio-Engineering Plastics

Fredric Petit, Director Sustainability, DSM Engineering Plastics (Holland) observed that the world has become addicted to fossil fuel but in the grand scheme of things the fossil-fuel age can be no more than a brief interlude separating millennia of renewable usage for fuel and materials.  The return to bio-based economics is imminent and with it the building blocks for plastics will have to move from petrochemicals to biomass.  DSM already have a leading position in bio-ethanol, bio-diesel and biogas along with bio-succinic acid and bio-adipic acid for polymer and plastics production. 

They are now focussing on bio-ethanol from cellulose in a 50/50 JV with POET called Project Liberty.  DSM will provide the enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation technology in a $250million investment to produce 20million gallons of ethanol/year in a commercial scale demonstration plant in Emmetsburg Iowa.  The technology will ultimately be replicated throughout POET’s 27 corn-based ethanol plants.  The JV is expected to produce revenue in 2013 from the sale of cellulosic bio-ethanol, biogas and (later) licensing the technology.

For the USA, EPA estimates the need for 350-400 new biorefineries by 2022 to produce 16 billion gallons/year of bioethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard.  7.8 billion gallons of this should come from cellulose derived from corn-crop residues.

(from a paper given at the Biopolymer World Conference, Venice, April 2012)

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