The 2017 partnership launched between Brazil-based Braskem and Haldor Tapsoe, a supplier of catalysts, technology, and services for the chemical and refining industries, was aimed at validating a sugar-to-biochemicals solution for the production of monoethylene glycol, or MEG, one of the two main ingredients in PET plastic. Today, that collaboration has borne fruit, the companies have announced.
Using catalyst technology developed and patented by Haldor Tapsoe, the companies have now for the first time produced bio-based MEG from sugar at the Lyngby, Denmark demonstration plant that was started in 2019.
Since then, the remaining process units of the plant have been built and put into operation, and the production process has been optimised.
Called Mosaik - MOnoSAccharide IndustrIal Cracker - the process involves cracking sugars to an intermediary product, which can then be further converted to MEG or other chemicals using Haldor Topsoe’s patented processes and catalysts. The process involves just two steps, bringing down investment costs and boosting productivity to a level, where it can compete on commercial terms with traditional production from non-renewable fossil feedstock.The global MEG market represents a value of approximately US$ 25 billion.
As a renewable resource, sugar constitutes 75% of all biomass, and it can be obtained from many different sources such as cane, beet, or corn. Even wood and straw can be processed into sugars that can be converted to chemicals.
For Braskem, the development of bio-MEG is a strategic step and one that underlines its commitment to the Circular Economy through renewable chemicals.
“This technology has the potential to revolutionize the PET market. That’s why we are increasingly closer to start building this new value chain, so we can deliver the sustainable solution that society is looking for”, said Gustavo Sergi, executive officer of Renewable Chemicals and Specialties at Braskem.
The technology will also co-produce, in a lower quantity, monopropylene glycol, which has a wide variety of applications ranging from unsaturated polyester resins, commonly used in construction materials, to cosmetic products.
The next phase will involve providing samples to strategic partners for testing and validation. The results of the demonstration plant operations and the validation of products will be essential to the decision to deploy the technology on a commercial scale.