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A 100% bio-based PET bottle inches closer as consortium produce bio-BTX

US-based sustainable technology company Anellotech Inc. and its joint development partners IFPEN and Axens have processed renewably-sourced BTX aromatics made at Anellotech’s TCat-8 pilot plant in Texas to successfully recover high-purity bio-based paraxylene – a key component for making 100 percent bio-based PET bottles a reality.

Bio-based benzene, toluene and xylene (BTX) aromatics made with Anellotech’s proprietary Bio-TCat technology, ready for purification (photo courtesy Anellotech).

According to a statement, this is a key development milestone for Anellotech and Japan-headed global consumer beverage company Suntory, as the two partners will collaborate to produce the bottles. Anellotech, IFPEN, and Axens will now purify additional paraxylene to create pilot sample 100 percent bioPET beverage bottles – as well as sample quantities of bio-based benzene whose derivatives (nylon, ABS, polycarbonate, linear alkyl benzene) are used in clothing, toys, mobile phones, and laundry detergent.

We’re delighted with this achievement, a key milestone on the path to 100 percent bio-based PET bottles. High-purity bio-paraxylene is an important material for our business, especially from a sustainability viewpoint, said Munehiko Takada, Chief Specialist of Packaging Material Department at Suntory.

Since the announcement of a successful two-week continuous trial in March 2018 at Anellotech’s TCat-8 pilot plant at Silsbee, Texas, over 4 000 hours of cumulative on-stream time have been achieved. The proprietary Bio-TCat technology is a thermal catalytic process for converting biomass into a mixture of benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX) aromatics which are chemically identical to petroleum-based counterparts.

Anellotech has been producing renewably-sourced BTX aromatics for purification by IFPEN and Axens in Europe. High purity BTX are then used to make commodity polymers such as polyester, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrenes, polycarbonates, nylons and polyurethanes (PU).

The successful production of high-purity bio-paraxylene from non-food biomass feedstock represents a significant accomplishment for Anellotech, its partners and industry at large, as this latest breakthrough brings 100% renewable plastic bottles closer to reality. Project planning is now underway for the first commercial process plant which will use our proprietary Bio-TCatTM process to produce paraxylene, benzene and other aromatics from sustainably-sourced loblolly pine wood, to be used in bio-based chemicals and biofuels, said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech.

Test volume produced

An initial volume of high-purity bio-paraxylene test samples has been produced. These samples have completely met all of the ASTM International specifications for downstream derivatives in conversion to PET. As larger amounts of paraxylene are purified, Anellotech will begin to make renewable PET resin for prototype bottle manufacture and product trials.

This will be the industry’s first major production of bio-PET from continuous, cost-effective processing of non-food biomass.

This is an important milestone to reach our mutual goal and see this technology become a reality. Collaborating with Anellotech offers us a unique opportunity to participate in the development of an innovative and cost-competitive path to bio-aromatics, consistent with our objectives to develop cost-competitive renewable chemicals and fuels from non-food biomass noted Jean-Pierre Burzynski, Director of the Process Business Unit at IFPEN.

As well as bio-paraxylene, Anellotech continues to work on the recovery of bio-benzene and toluene from TCat-8 output. Separation and purification of high-purity bio-benzene will enable sample volumes of a range of important bio-based polymers such as nylons, polycarbonate, polystyrene, and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) to be produced.

Today, the energy and chemical industries must be responsive and proactive in adapting their assets and operations to contribute to a sustainable future. Our common project with Anellotech and IFPEN enters fully in this objective. Bio-TCat will complete effectively our processes portfolio to transform biomass into fuel or chemicals, said Pierre Beccat, Executive Vice President Technology Development & Innovation of Axens.

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