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Braskem invests US$61 million to increase biopolymer production

Brazil-headed Braskem SA, the largest petrochemical company and leading biopolymer producer in the Americas has announced that it is expanding its production capacity of green ethylene, the main feedstock derived from sugarcane ethanol which is used in the production of renewable resins. This expansion will meet strong global demand for biopolymers and contribute towards Braskem becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2050.

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The green ethylene unit in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul (photo courtesy Braskem).
Braskem’s green ethylene unit in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul will see an increase in capacity of 60 000 tonnes to 260 000 tonnes per annum following a US$61 million investment (photo courtesy Braskem). The green ethylene unit in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul (photo courtesy Braskem).

According to a statement, the unit producing green ethylene, the feedstock used to produce thermoplastic resins from renewable resources, will see an increase in capacity of 60 000 tonnes to 260 000 tonnes per annum at the company’s plant in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

The expansion project, budgeted at US$61 million, will be rolled out in 2021 and should be concluded in the fourth quarter of 2022.

All the steps involved in the process to expand Braskem’s green ethylene production capacity will continue without causing any interruption to current production, and clients will be served normally.

The increase in biopolymer capacity and production reflects healthy growth in demand from society and our partners for sustainable products, which has increased significantly in recent years. It’s also a strong signal of Braskem’s commitment towards sustainable development which reflects the values of our supply chain partners and our customers. Our business expansion aims to consolidate Braskem’s leadership of the biopolymers market, said Marco Jansen, Global Biopolymers Leader at Braskem.

Over a decade of production experience

Braskem’s analysis of the production of biopolymers from sugarcane started in 2007 at the Technology and Innovation Center in the Triunfo Petrochemical Complex, the sector’s largest and most modern research complex in Latin America.

The company invested US$290 million in building the industrial unit and, in 2010, unveiled the world’s first polyethylene (PE) produced from renewable resources on an industrial scale, currently represented by the “I’m green” bio-based brand.

In recent years, Braskem ramped up production, offering new renewable solutions such as the “I’m green” bio-based EVA, a resin used in the automotive and footwear sectors, amongst others.

Third-party accolades

In 2020, the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the UN Global Compact’s Brazil Network recognized the “I’m green” brand as one of Brazil’s most transformational cases in sustainable development .

Last year, during the Financial Outlook & Sustainability Forum, the brand also won ‘Best Sustainable Initiative’ at Chemical Week’s Sustainability Award s. The initiative was organized by the magazine Chemical Week and evaluated about 75 of the most innovative projects in the chemical and petrochemical sector.

Braskem’s drive to create solutions from sugarcane is directly connected to its sustainability strategy of increasingly investing in products developed from raw materials derived from renewable resources.

Currently, the portfolio of renewable resins is exported to over 30 countries and is already used in the products of more than 250 major brands, such as Allbirds, DUO UK, Grupo Boticário, Join The Pipe, Johnson&Johnson, Natura & Co, Nissin, Shiseido, and Tetra Pak.

It is no longer possible to think of a business model that does not consider production processes with the least environmental impact and circular economy practices. The world has numerous challenges ahead, such as climate change and the availability of natural resources like water. As an important driver of development in diverse economic sectors, Braskem assumes joint responsibility for helping the market to move in the right direction, said Marco Jansen.

As good as but better

Braskem’s renewable resins maintain the same quality and versatility as a fossil-based product but with the advantage of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2), during the production stage.

According to the report “Life Cycle Assessment on Green HDPE and Fossil HDPE,” prepared by the consulting firm ACV Brasil and reviewed by Andreas Detzel, Mirjam Busch (IFEU), Ramani Narayan (MSU), and Carbon Trust, up to 3.09 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of polyethylene produced and up to 2.1 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of renewable EVA produced.

Given that the product has been manufactured by Braskem for 10 years, the company estimates that the solution has averted the emission of 5.54 million tonnes of CO2 during this period.

The expansion of biopolymer production capacity is expected to contribute to Braskem’s target to become a carbon-neutral company by 2050 with a reduction of 185 000 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Carbon neutralization is one of the most viable paths to minimize the impacts of climate change. Hence, increasing our production of plastic derived from sugarcane will bring significant gains both for us and our clients around the world in terms of sustainability, ended Marco Jansen.

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