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Biochemicals & Materials

Avantium and BASF plan new biobased chemical JV

Avantium, a Netherlands-based renewable chemical technology company and BASF Intermediates, a company within the Germany-headed global chemicals major BASF, have signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) and entered into exclusive negotiations to establish a Joint Venture (JV) for the production and marketing of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) from renewable sources.

The JV will also include the marketing of polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a completely new, high-quality plastic from the new biobased FDCA building block. The JV will use the “YXY” process developed by Avantium in its laboratories in Amsterdam and pilot plant in Geleen, Netherlands, for the production of FDCA. It is intended to further develop this process as well as to construct a reference plant for the production of FDCA with an annual capacity of up to 50 000 tonnes at BASF’s Verbund site in Antwerp, Belgium. The aim of the JV is to build up world-leading positions in FDCA and PEF, and subsequently license the technology for industrial scale application.

New improved materials

Avantium’s YXY two-step catalytic technology can convert carbohydrates into a number of different biobased products and fuels. The first step is the catalytic dehydration of the carbohydrate feedstock in an alcohol, such as methanol, to make alkoxymethyl-furfural (RMF), such as methoxymethyl furfural (MMF) and levulinics like methyl levulinates. The second step is the catalytic oxidation of RMF in acetic acid to make FDCA. To make the biobased polymer PEF, a third catalytic step brings together FDCA and monoethylene glycol (MEG), of which the latter MEG process consists of two catalytic steps.

FDCA is the essential chemical building block for the production of PEF. Compared to conventional plastics, PEF is characterized by improved barrier properties for gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen. Higher mechanical strength enables thinner PEF packaging can be produced lowering the amount of packaging material needed. Therefore PEF is particularly suitable for the production of certain food and beverage packaging, for example films and plastic bottles. After use, PEF can be recycled. Avantium have produced PEF using readily available plant-based industrial sugars such as fructose syrup, a by-product of corn ethanol.

– The contemplated joint venture with BASF is a major milestone in the development and commercialisation of this game-changing technology. Partnering with the number one chemical company in the world provides us with access to the capabilities that are required to bring this technology to industrialization and establish the market leadership for FDCA and PEF. With BASF, we plan to start production of FDCA to enable the first commercial launch of this exciting bio-based material and to further develop and grow the market to its full potential, said Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium.


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