“We expect that we need funding in place by the end of the next year of around €150 million, which is a combination of CAPEX, OPEX, start-up costs, working capital and running costs of this business until the plant is onstream.”
Dutch renewable chemicals company Avantium has announced that it has rebranded its Synvina business unit and is pressing ahead with plans to open its new bioplastics plant in 2023.
The company wants to become a market leader in the production of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and polyethylene furanoate (PEF) polymers with the launch of its plant. Its YXY technology produces PEF materials, which are bio-based.
On 6 June, the company held a technology and markets day for investors and stakeholders to outline its plans for a new scale-up policy in the light of taking full ownership of the Synvina bioplastics business from joint venture partner BASF, a German chemicals giant, earlier this year.
Synvina was formed in 2016 to commercialise the YXY technology developed by Avantium (@Avantium) to produce PEF-building block FDCA. However, BASF terminated its partnership earlier this year, citing disagreements over implementing the terms of the agreement.
Speaking to Bio Market Insights, Avantium CEO Tom van Aken said the plant would be based somewhere in north west Europe and produce around 5,000 tonnes of FDCA and PEF per year. He maintained that Avantium had not yet selected a specific location for the plant, but would announce where it would be by the end of the year.
The plant will produce products for high-value markets and performance applications such as high-barrier films that can be used in electronics, such as LCD screens. The plant will also produce materials for speciality bottles, such as those used for carbonated soft drinks, beer or smoothies.
Avantium’s material is also 100% recyclable. If it is left in the natural environment, it can “degrade much faster than PET”, Van Aken said.
Elsewhere, Van Aken said that the Synvina business unit had been renamed Avantium Renewable Polymers and operates under the Avantium brand.
In relation to funding for the plant, Van Aken said: “We expect that we need funding in place by the end of the next year of around €150 million, which is a combination of CAPEX, OPEX, start-up costs, working capital and running costs of this business until the plant is onstream.”
Moving on from its spilt from BASF, Avantium now wants to work with multiple partners in the value chain to help build its business. “We believe that will be the model that will suit our needs than the previous model that we had with one major joint venture partner.”
On the road to commercialisation
The YXY plant-to-plastics – process catalytically converts plant-based sugars into a wide range of chemicals and plastics, such as PEF. Avantium demonstrated the YXY technology at its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands.
Van Aken said that Avantium’s YXY technology was moving steadfastly towards commercialisation and stressed that PEF was going to be one of the “main polymers in the future”. Van Aken explained that he expected demand for the material to grow as more and more consumers, especially in Europe and Japan, demanded more sustainable products.
“People are excited about it and now want to see it in larger volumes and being used in commercial applications, so that will help to launch the PEF market,” said Van Aken. “This will help demonstrate the technology and products so that we can use it as a platform for licensing the technology and will help PEF to be used and produced in much larger volumes.”
Avantium is also developing new biorefinery technology to convert non-food biomass like wood chips or agricultural waste into industrial sugars, Van Aken told Bio Market Insights. These sugars will then be turned into chemical feedstocks to make plastics.
“We do not want to be competing with food. Food is clearly a high priority than making packaging materials and we would prefer to use non-food biomass streams which are abundantly available and convert them into the chemicals we need to make our materials,” Van Aken said.
In the future, with increased scale, Avantium expects to license out its technologies to major companies, such as chemical and agricultural companies, to produce its materials at large scale across the globe.
Van Aken concluded: “We want to be a technology company where people come to us to help them to use new technologies which use renewable feedstocks that make products in a cost-effective manner with better properties than conventional PET and that are intrinsically better for the environment.”
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