Global production capacity of bio-based polymers is forecast to more than treble from now until 2020 to nearly 12 million tonnes, according to German-based research and project management group, the Nova Institute.
The figures suggest that the bio-based share of total polymer production in 2020 – around 400 million tonnes – should increase from 1.5% in 2011 to 3% in 2020, suggesting that bio-based production capacity will grow faster than overall production.
According to Nova the most dynamic development is foreseen for drop-in biopolymers, which are chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts but at least partially derived from biomass.
This group is spearheaded by partly bio-based PET (Bio-PET) whose production capacity will reach about 5 million tonnes by the year 2020, using bioethanol from sugar cane.
The second in this group are bio-based polyolefins like PE and PP, also based on bioethanol. But ‘new in the market' bio-based polymers PLA and PHA are also expected to at least quadruple the capacity between 2011 and 2020.
Nova argues that most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia and South America because of better access to feedstock and a favourable political framework.
Europe's share will decrease from 20% to 14% and North America's share from 15% to 13%, whereas Asia's will increase from 52% to 55% and South America's from 13% to 18%. World market shares are not expected to shift dramatically, suggesting every region will experience development in the field of bio-based polymer production.
Michael Carus, Nova Institute's managing director, said the market data about worldwide production capacity of all bio-based polymers was considerably higher than in previous studies, which had not covered all polymers and producers.
“The forecast of a total capacity of 12 million tonnes by 2020 – a tripling of 2011 levels – suggests that bio-based polymers are definitely polymers for the future. It is also shown that the development of bio-based polymers is still very dynamic.
“Only five years ago, nobody would have expected bio-PET to grow to the biggest group among the bio-based polymers due to an initiative by one big brand-owner.
“This could happen again with any other bio-based polymer. PLA and PHA also have a remarkable growth ahead of them, even without the existence of such a ‘supply chain captain'.”
With an expected total polymer production of about 400 million tonnes in 2020, the bio-based share should increase from 1.5% in 2011 to 3% in 2020, meaning that bio-based production capacity will grow faster than overall production.