The quest for achieving sustainability in its operations by the chemical industry is gaining increasing momentum, as forward-looking executives prepare for a future when free and easy use of hydrocarbon feedstocks will become increasingly constrained. Use of renewable feedstocks is one of a number of ways in which sustainability can be achieved. Not only will this help to reduce carbon net emissions, it will also help the chemical industry to meet rising public demands to show it cares for the future of the planet. Multiple efforts are being undertaken around the world to develop processes that make the products that are essential to our modern lifestyle – such as plastics packaging and synthetic fibres – from renewable raw materials.
The challenge is formidable. The petrochemical industry has had 70+ years to develop and perfect processes to the point that plastic film, for example, possesses properties that would astonish the pioneers who started development in the 1950s, and is available at a low cost that has created the throw-away society. Producing comparable products from biomaterials faces the hurdles of achieving similar properties but at similar low cost.
Tecnon OrbiChem has been following for some years the endeavours around the world to develop bio-based materials that can find a place in our petro-chemical based lifestyles. Some efforts go towards replacing existing petrochemicals with identical chemicals made from natural materials – succinic anhydride made from sugars is the same as succinic anhydride made from butane – the “drop in” approach. Other efforts go to producing new materials that can make products similar to those familiar to us as petro-derived products – furan dicarboxylic acid can do a similar job as PTA in new, slightly different polyesters. The difficulties are huge, but some successes give encouragement. Dodecandioic acid has for years been made by a route from butadiene, but today a metabolic route is taking over. Some bio-replacements are already making their presence felt in the consumer market place, for example the PlantBottleTM is in part made from ethylene glycol derived from sugar.
Tecnon OrbiChem has been publishing a monthly newsletter, called Bio-Materials and Intermediates Chemical Business Focus, since September 2013. Each month, in addition to the news items and reviews of developments, there is a Chemical Profile, which offers a comprehensive yet compact summary of the market for a particular chemical – in both its petro-chemical and bio-chemical forms. We have now combined the profiles we have compiled over the past three years into a Handbook, which contains reviews of the research and development that is taking place for the chemicals listed in the Table below.
The profiles, like the newsletter itself, are not mainly directed to describing attempts being made on a laboratory scale, for which there are already many publications. Rather, the objective is to concentrate on the approaches to achieving commercially viable processes, and to evaluating the chances of bio-products being able to compete with, and even replace, existing petrochemical materials. With this objective, we offer detailed and comprehensive coverage of markets, prices and developments for bio-based chemicals and bio-polymers, alongside that for their petrochemical equivalents. The aim is to provide readers with updates on the position of markets where there is potential for replacement of petro-derived chemicals and products with bio-derived alternatives, both direct replacements (“drop-in” bio-chemicals) and similar molecules that can perform the same function, albeit with reformulation. A critical factor in gaining commercial acceptance is the drive to increase the renewable content of consumer goods, as the public becomes increasingly aware of the need to support “green” initiatives. The Handbook of Commercial Bio-Materials is a handy collection of descriptions of the more successful endeavours to achieve or approach commercial viability for renewable chemicals and products.
This is an essential compendium of successful and close-to-successful bio-based materials. Tecnon OrbiChem hopes that it will become an essential companion to the researcher looking for concrete examples of successful bio-innovation, and an inspiration to the forward-looking entrepreneurs seeking to help society prepare for a sustainable way of life.
The Handbook of Commerical bio-based Chemicals is available at http://www.orbichem.com/World_Market_Surveys.aspx?ReportID=394&ProductID=167&DontShow=1
Contents of the Handbook
- Acrylic acid
- Adipic acid
- Ethylene oxide & MEG
- Fatty acids
- Fatty alcohols
- Hexamethylene diamine
- Itaconic acid
- Levulinic acid
- Malonic acid
- Methyl methacrylate (MMA)
- Monoethyene glycol (MEG)
- Monopropylene glycol (MPG)
- 1,5-Pentane diamine (PDA)
- Polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT)
- Polybutylene succinate (PBS)
- Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)
- Polyethyene terephthalate (PET)
- Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)
- Polylactic acid (PLA)
- Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA)
- Sebacic acid
- Succinic acid