Biobased aromatics developer Anellotech (Pearl River, NY) announced last week at Infocast’s 7th Annual Bio-Based & Sustainable Products Summit in San Diego Summit that it has entered the next phase of its strategic partnership with Japan-based Suntory Holdings Ltd.—one of the world's leading consumer beverage companies.
As part of its commitment to sustainable business practices, Suntory is pursuing the development of a 100% bio-bottle through this partnership, which began in 2012 under a collaboration agreement that has provided more than $15 million in funding to date.
|Anellotec's TCat-8 unit.|
“Anellotech’s Bio TCat process enables cost-competitive paraxylene, the key missing component needed to make a 100% bio-bottle,” said David Sudolsky, CEO of Anellotech.
Approximately 54 million metric tons of PET are manufactured globally each year. Despite strong industry demand, there is no commercially-available, biobased paraxylene on the market today. This has limited the ability to make 100% biobased PET at commercial scale. By using Bio-TCat technology, Anellotech and its partners are accelerating the development of biobased paraxylene and other widely-used chemicals including benzene, toluene and other xylenes (commonly known as BTX) from non-food sources.
Sudolsky explained: “Anellotech uses cost-advantaged non-food biomass feedstock in its process and converts biomass to BTX in one reactor. By starting from cost-advantaged feedstock and employing a solid catalyst in just one fluid-bed reactor, Anellotech’s process can produce the 100% biobased aromatic chemicals that are used to make many significant plastics. By going directly from biomass to BTX in this one reactor, Anellotech does not make a highly-oxygenated bio-oil intermediate product often seen in multi-step pyrolysis processes, and avoids the need to add substantial amounts of costly hydrogen.”
As biomass and catalyst are the only inputs, apart from minor amounts of hydrogen used downstream of the reactor to remove trace impurities prior to further separation of the BTX, these biobased aromatics can be sold profitably against their identical, petroleum-derived counterparts. With the fermentation route, said Sudolsky, biomass feedstocks need to be treated to extract cellulosic sugars and multiple steps are involved, which drives up cost.
“These technologies are being developed by companies that also need to make a profit before the fermentation company begins their work. Secondly, we are not aware of a fermentation route that can convert these cellulosic sugars to BTX in one step,” he said.
This recent announcement marks a major milestone in the development of 100% biobased polyester and biobased PET bottles. With construction now complete on its new, fully-integrated development and testing facility (TCat-8), Anellotech is ready to commence installation with groundbreaking scheduled for late January 2016. Operational in 2016, this 25-meter tall unit will confirm the viability and suitability of the Bio-TCat process for scale-up, and generate the data needed to design commercial plants using Bio-TCat technology. The TCat-8 unit was jointly designed by Anellotech and its R&D partner IFPEN, and will use a novel catalyst under joint development by Anellotech and Johnson Matthey. After verification of the continuous operation of TCat-8, Suntory plans to move ahead with studies to consider the development of the first commercial-scale Bio-TCat plant.
“By focusing on the development of substitute materials to replace petroleum in making everyday consumer products, we are expanding our commitment to reduce the environmental burden of beverage packaging, including reduction of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions,” said Munehiko Takada, head of Packaging Material Development Department at Suntory.
Suntory joins Anellotech’s existing partners IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN), Axens, Johnson Matthey, and a multinational corporate investor, which has provided a $7 million equity investment, the first tranche of a total $10 million investment.
“We are pleased to enter the next phase of our partnership with Suntory and further advance our technology to meet growing consumer demand for products and packaging made from sustainable sources,” said David Sudolsky. “Anellotech and some of its alliance partners are already doing preliminary work to identify potential feedstocks, sites and operating partners for an initial commercial plant. With Suntory’s focus on bio-paraxylene, Anellotech can now offer a unique opportunity to new partners interested in bio-benzene-chain derivatives. This includes nylon, polycarbonate, linear alkyl benzene for laundry detergent, and styrene for styrene butadiene rubber.”
So, when is it realistic to expect 100% bio-PET to become commercially available, using bio-aromatics made using Anellotech’s thermal catalytic biomass conversion technology?
“Anellotech’s first licensed commercial plant will be operational by the end of this decade,” said Sudolsky.