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Coca-Cola gives PEF a chance

"It's an honor", said Dirk den Ouden, the director of new business development at Avantium, talking to PlasticsToday about the recently signed partnership agreement with The Coca-Cola Company. Avantium is one of the three biotechnology firms chosen by the company as a partner in the quest to develop a 100% biobased "green" bottle by 2020.

Avantium's PEF material, a drop-in replacement for PET that, according to the company, has excellent thermal properties and better barrier properties than PET, is based on furan chemistry. The two other companies with whom The Coca-Cola Company has chosen to partner are both focusing on the development of biobased PET - albeit via different routes. "It's a competition", Den Ouden added. "A challenge - it's up to us to show that our material can do everything we say it can."

Economically speaking, PEF is competitive at oil prices between $60 and $120 per barrel. "Right now, we have the capacity to produce 40 thousand tons of PEF at our pilot plant in Geleen [the Netherlands]. We expect to be able to build a commercial plant in another three or four years. Our strategy is aimed at partnering with numerous parties, in order to generate demand. The more PEF we manufacture, the lower the price. We envision PEF eventually becoming the industry standard material for packaging applications."

Asked about possible future partnerships, Den Ouden told PlasticsToday that the company was already talking to parties in various areas, ranging from shampoo to cookies and ketchup.

Virent states its case

Virent, one of the other company's in the "competition" Avantium's Den Ouden referred to, issued a press release of its own on Dec. 16 to spell out some of the details of its own multi-year, multi-million dollar joint development and supply agreement with Coke.

The Madison, WI based company is working to scale-up Virent's plant-based paraxylene, trademarked BioFormPX, targeting 2015 for the first commercial plant opening. The majority of the PX produced from Virent's first plant will be allocated for purchase by Coke's supply chain partners. Virent said it will reserve the remainder of the BioFormPX for market development in complementary PET and polyester applications.

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