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Total and Corbion join forces on Thailand venture

Total, the French oil giant and lactic acid producer Corbion announced today that they are partnering in a new joint venture for the production of PLA bioplastic in Thailand. Each will hold a 50% stake in the new company.

Karen Laird

November 16, 2016

2 Min Read
Total and Corbion join forces on Thailand venture

The two partners plan to build a world-class PLA polymerization plant with a capacity of 75,000 tons per year at Corbion's lactide production site in Thailand. The lactide production unit will also become part of the joint venture. Corbion will supply the lactic acid necessary for the production of the PLA and the lactide.

The new company will be headquartered in the Netherlands and will launch operations in the 1st quarter of 2017, subject to regulatory approvals.

PLA is a biobased, biodegradable polymer obtained by fermenting renewable resources (sugar or starch) to produce lactic acid. PLA is mainly used for food packaging, disposable tableware and textiles, as well as in numerous other industries such as oil and gas, electronics, automotive and 3D printing.

 "PLA is one of the first renewable, biodegradable polymers able to compete with existing polymers,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Corbion.

It is also a fast-growing polymer market segment, with an estimated average annual growth rate of 10 to 15% to 2025.

“The joint venture, which will combine Total's technical and marketing knowledge and leading position in polymers with Corbion's expertise in lactic acid and biopolymers, will enable us to supply innovative products and will accelerate market acceptance," De Ruiter said.

Corbion had previously announced plans to build a PLA factory in Thailand, leaving the impression it was going to do so alone. In 2014, the company estimated that construction of the PLA polymerization plant would require an investment of around € 60 million. Today’s announcement follows hard on the heels of the news that the ground breaking ceremony for the new plant was recently held in Thailand, signalling the start of construction at the existing Corbion site in Rayong, Thailand.  

 "I'm very pleased with this joint venture, which aims to become a major player in the growing bioplastics market," commented Bernard Pinatel, President of Total Refining & Chemicals.

"Corbion's unique position in the lactic acid and biopolymers value chain makes it a natural choice for Total. The joint venture will allow us to supply an innovative material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable and that responds to sustainability concerns."

 The new PLA polymerization plant will be constructed using Corbion’s own proprietary polymerization technology and that of Sulzer Chemtech Ltd. of Switzerland at the plant. Also key equipment will be supplied by Sulzer.  

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