Lactic acid producer Corbion Purac has announced plans to expand its activities from bio-feedstock producer into the production of actual bioplastic material itself. The company says it will invest in a 75 kTpa PLA plant (estimated EUR 60 million capex USD 74 million) in Thailand, but "only if we can secure at least one-third of plant capacity in committed PLA volumes from customers," according to Corbion CEO Tjerk de Ruiter.
The move into PLA production is one of the highlights of Corbion's updated strategic direction for 2015 - 2018, announced by the company just a few days ago, on October 30 and is part of the company's aim to leverage its technology to build new business platforms in the biotechnology arena, "Biobased Innovations," which it sees as a driver for future growth.
|Corbion CEO Tjerk de Ruiter|
The decision to invest in a PLA plant was prompted by the conviction that, in the words of CEO De Ruiter: "There is an attractive demand outlook for PLA, albeit at a lower growth pace than previously assumed." Worldwide PLA capacity is almost sold out and with the PLA market expected to grow to 600 kTpa by 2025, the market is seeking additional PLA suppliers, presenting a tailor-made opportunity for the company.
De Ruijter: "Given our strong position in lactic acid, our unique high heat technology and the market need for a second PLA producer, we plan to forward integrate in the bioplastics value chain, from being a lactide provider to a PLA producer."
Next to PLA production, the company will continue to explore strategic alliances, as a means to enhance the business opportunities while mitigating the associated risks. "We will debottleneck our existing lactic acid asset base, and therefore we do not foresee the need for a major new lactic acid plant in the near term," said De Ruijter
Many of Corbion's existing polymerization customers have already successfully built up a strong local presence and distribution channel, and extensive market coverage.
Corbion Purac will continue to sell its lactides to existing and new PLA polymerization customers. Lactide sales for the coatings and adhesives markets will also continue.