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Braskem and Haldor Topsoe startup demo unit for developing renewable MEG

Braskem, the largest petrochemical producer and leading biopolymer producer in the Americas, and Haldor Topsoe, the world leader in catalysts and technology for the chemical and refining industries, have announced the commissioning of a pioneering demonstration unit for the development of monoethylene glycol (MEG) from sugar. Located in Lyngby, Denmark, the pilot plant's operation marks a "decisive step" in confirming the technical and economic feasibility of industrial renewable MEG production.

Located in Lyngby, Denmark, the pilot plant is a result of a technological cooperation agreement between the companies for researching a pioneering route for the production of mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) from sugar (photo courtesy Braskem).

Located in Lyngby, Denmark, the pilot plant is a result of a technological cooperation agreement
between the companies for researching a pioneering route for the production of mono-ethylene
glycol (MEG) from sugar (photo courtesy Braskem).

Announced in 2017, the cooperation agreement focuses on developing new technology for converting sugar into MEG at a single industrial unit, which reduces the initial investment in production and consequently makes the process more competitive. MEG is predominantly used in the manufacture of polyester (PET) resins, films, and fibres. These are in turn widely used in the textile and packaging industries, especially for making bottles.

Haldor Topsoe is a global leader in catalytic solutions and is driven to maintain its leadership in the renewable energy industry. We are pleased to embark, together with Braskem, on the next phase of the validation of the MOSAIK solution for producing biobased MEG. Our goal is to show that innovative catalytic technologies can make chemical products from biomass a commercially attractive option, said Kim Knudsen, Executive Officer at Haldor Topsoe.

Client sample testing

Starting in 2020, clients will receive samples to test their products. The unit in Denmark has an annual production capacity of hundreds of tonnes of glycolaldehyde, a substance that is converted into MEG. The goal is for the plant to convert various raw materials, such as sucrose, dextrose, and second-generation sugars, into MEG. Currently, MEG is made from fossil-based feedstocks, such as naphtha, gas or coal.

The process for developing renewable MEG in partnership with Haldor Topsoe represents a major advance in competitiveness for Green PET. The partnership strengthens the leading role we play and adds value to our “I’m green” portfolio, which already features Green Polyethylene and Green EVA, both made from sugarcane. It also will further corroborate our vision of using biopolymers as a way to capture carbon, which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, explained Gustavo Sergi, Director of Renewable Chemicals at Braskem.

Two-step process

The MOnoSAccharide IndustrIal Cracker (MOSAIK) is a solution for cracking of sugars to an intermediary product which can be further converted to monoethylene glycol (MEG) or other biochemicals, such as methyl vinyl glycolate or glycolic acid, using Haldor Topsoe’s patented processes and catalysts. Innovation Fund Denmark has co-financed the development and upscaling of MOSAIKTM.

Current processes to produce MEG from biomass involve several steps. This can be reduced to two simple steps with MOSAIK and Topsoe’s unique catalyst and technology for the production of MEG. The new solution brings down investment costs and boosts productivity to a level, where it can compete on commercial terms with traditional production from fossil feedstock (naphtha).

According to Braskem, the global market for MEG is currently estimated to be worth around US$25 billion.

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