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Avantium opens plant-based MEG demo plant.

Avantium’s CEO Tom van Aken

“We are fulfilling our dream to help develop polyesters that are truly renewable.”

Dutch renewable chemicals company Avantium has opened its plant-based MEG (mono-ethylene glycol) demonstration plant in Chemie Park Delfzijl, the Netherlands.

MEG is a vital ingredient for the production of PET and PEF plastics and polyester textiles. Today, more than 99% of MEG is produced from fossil resources and the market demand for this product is expected to grow from 28 million to 50 million tonnes in the next 20 years.

In order to help brands and companies transition to a more renewable world, Avantium has utilised its “Ray Technology” to produce plant-based MEG at its demo plant. In a statement, it also said that its technology was cost competitive to fossil-based MEG.

The plant will also produce plant-based MPG (mono-propylene glycol) which is used in a diverse set of industries such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food flavouring and de-icing. The facility can produce around 10 tonnes of plant-based MPG and MEG per year.

‘A special milestone’

Speaking exclusively to Bio Market Insights (BMI), Avantium CEO Tom van Aken said the inauguration of the company’s plant-based MEG plant was a special milestone, adding: “We are the first company in this industry to have brought three technologies to demonstration stage – our YXY Technology, Dawn Technology and now our Ray Technology.”

He added: “We started off in the lab and have worked hard and diligently to develop our Ray Technology to the point where we can now scale it and demonstrate it at our new demo plant. We are fulfilling our dream to help develop polyesters that are truly renewable.”

Van Aken went on to say that there was very strong demand for plant-based MEG as it was a fast-growing market. He also said that brand owners were seeking alternatives to fossil fuel-based MEG at cost competitive prices.

The end-to-end plant-based Ray Technology demonstration plant will cover all process steps in converting industrial sugars to glycols, allowing for the production of MEG and MPG samples that are representative of the final product from subsequent commercial-scale plants.

Avantium’s demo plant – destillation tower

Zanna McFerson, Managing Director of Avantium Renewable Chemistries, said: “The opening of this demonstration plant signifies years of research and trials to achieve a significant step towards a commercial flagship plant, aimed for start-up in 2024.

“Commercial conversations are already ongoing with partners who see an economic opportunity with Ray Technology.  We talk with feedstock providers who wish to diversify their markets, chemical companies who seek to enter a significant growth market and transition to a bio-based economy and consumer brands who are looking for plant-based solutions for their textiles and packaging.”

Van Aken told BMI that EU grants had helped the company to develop its demo plants, stating that “Europe had the right tools in place”.

He also said that the industry as a whole needed help in the future to build these large-scale plants, adding: “Having this type of money is important. I know that the European Commission is working on this with its Horizon 2020 initiative (EU’s R&D programme).”

Elsewhere, Avantium reiterated its plans to commercialise its plant-to-plastics YXY technology to produce furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF) polymers. It is pressing ahead with plans to launch a YXY flagship plant in 2023. This plant is expected to produce 5 kilotons of FCDA and PEF per year.

The announcement marks a new chapter for the company which came out of a joint venture (JV) partnership with chemical giant BASF earlier this year. The JV called Synvina was formed in 2016 to commercialise the YXY technology developed by Avantium to produce FDCA. However, BASF terminated its partnership earlier this year, citing disagreements over implementing the terms of the agreement.

Van Aken said that Avantium had made “tremendous progress” after a tough start to the year with BASF pulling out of the JV. He added: “We are very, very pleased with the speed of developing our projects and bring them to their next stages. We are planning further announcements in the near future in order to reveal more about the forthcoming milestones we will achieve in relation to scaling our PEF technology and FDCA technology and how we plan to bring them to market.”

He concluded: “The company is in full swing and we have sustained a positive momentum.”

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: Avantium plans to open bio-MEG demo plant in November.

Read: Avantium targets 2023 opening for planned bioplastics plant and rebrands Synvina business.

Read: EXCLUSIVE: BASF announces official exit from bio-plastics JV with Avantium.

Read: Avantium buys out BASF’s stake in Synvina JV.

Read: 5 Minutes with… Paul Mines of Biome Bioplastics.

Read: BBC covers biodegradable bioplastics made from cactus juice.

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