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Avantium enters into the commercialisation phase for PEF

Netherlands-headed renewable chemical process developer Avantium BV recently hosted a "Technology & Markets Day" at its headquarters in Amsterdam at which it updated the market on the company's strategy and technologies. In particular, that of the Synvina business unit and the commercialization of polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a 100 percent renewable and fully recyclable polymer.

Biobased PEF bottles (photo courtesy Avantium).
Biobased polyethylene furanoate (PEF) bottles (photo courtesy Avantium). Biobased PEF bottles (photo courtesy Avantium).

Avantium develops novel technologies based on renewable carbon sources as an alternative to fossil-based chemicals and plastics. Apart from developing and commercializing renewable chemistry technologies, the company also provides advanced catalysis R&D services and systems to customers in the refinery and chemical industries. The company currently has three technologies at the pilot and demonstration phase.

The most advanced technology is the YXY plant-to-plastics–process that catalytically converts plant-based sugars into a wide range of chemicals and plastics, such as PEF (polyethylene furanoate). Avantium has successfully demonstrated the YXY Technology at its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands.

The second technology is the “DAWN Technology” that converts non-food biomass into industrial sugars and lignin in order to transition the chemicals and materials industries to non-fossil resources. In 2018, Avantium opened the DAWN pilot plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands.

The third technology is called Mekong and catalytically converts industrial sugars to plant-based MEG (mono-ethylene glycol). Avantium is currently building a new demonstration plant for Mekong with an opening planned in Delfzijl by the end of the year.

Revised PEF scale-up and market launch strategy

In January 2019, Avantium acquired 100 percent ownership of Synvina from the BASF joint venture, creating new avenues for commercializing the YXY technology. The Synvina business unit is renamed Avantium Renewable Polymers and operates under the Avantium brand.

We strongly believe in our YXY technology and the unique properties of PEF and are steadfastly moving towards commercialization. With our full ownership of YXY Technology, we have now revised our scale-up and market launch strategy for PEF in a way that meets both market and capital requirements, said Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium.

Avantium has explored different scenarios with potential partners and customers to redefine the commercialization strategy of PEF that meets both market and capital requirements. This has led to a revised scale-up and market launch strategy for this novel plant-to- plastics technology:

  • Avantium intends to build a cash-flow positive flagship plant with a planned annual capacity of 5 000 tonnes of FDCA and PEF
  • The plant will produce products for high-value markets and performance applications such as high-barrier films and specialty bottles
  • Avantium maintains control of flagship and licensing business of YXY while building a network of committed partners throughout the value chain
  • The flagship plant is slated to start up in 2023:

Flagship plant plans

The design of a 5 000 tonne per annum flagship plant has commenced with leading engineering services company Worley (formerly Jacobs Engineering) commissioned to execute the detailed engineering studies. The site selection in northwestern continental Europe is to be completed in the second half of 2019 while the investment decision for construction of the flagship plant is planned for the end of 2020.

Building our flagship plant with an annual capacity of 5 kilotons will allow our market entry in high-value applications such as high-barrier films and specialty bottles. PEF is ideally suited to compete on performance and command the best price in these applications. As we progress our learning curve and increase scale in the future, PEF will be able to compete in high- volume markets, including bottles for carbonated soft drinks and other beverages. Our strategy of building and nurturing value chain partnerships remains of pivotal importance on our path to global commercialization. We partner with feedstock providers, future licensees, convertors and consumer brands. Market interest in PEF remains enthusiastically high as does the commitment of our existing partners to bring this technology to market, said Tom van Aken.

Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium.
Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium. Tom van Aken, Chief Executive Officer of Avantium.

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