Today, US-headquartered PLA manufacturer NatureWorks issued a statement announcing plans for the construction of a new, fully integrated Ingeo PLA production facility in Thailand.
Official approval for the project, which represents an investment of more than 15 billion baht, or around $490 million, was granted last week by the Thailand Board of Investment .
According to the announcement, NatureWorks has already completed the front-end engineering design for the facility, with final detailed engineering currently underway. The FEED work was conducted by Jacobs and managed in partnership with IAG, who provided front-end project management and project controls. NatureWorks expects to announce further details on the new facility later this year.
Cost, feedstock availability and proximity to the Asian market were all a factor in the selection of Thailand as the location for the new plant. The company opened its Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Bangkok in January 2013 and has been committed to supporting the region from a local base in Thailand since that time
"In the last several years, we have also seen significant growth in demand for Ingeo biopolymer throughout Asia Pacific region for both domestic consumption and export markets to the US and Europe," said Leah Ford, NatureWorks' Global Marketing & Communications Manager. "Thailand, specifically, is a regional leader in both the bioeconomy and circular economy with the implementation of their Bio-, Circular, and Green Economy (BCG) model, which makes it an ideal location for building an Ingeo PLA manufacturing facility that can expand our ability to sustainably supply both the country and the region."
Securing approval from Thailand Board of Investment was a critical milestone, noted Rich Altice, President and CEO of NatureWorks.
“With both the recently announced capacity expansion at our facility in Blair, Nebraska and this new manufacturing complex, we can further address the global market demand for sustainable materials and continue leading the development of high-performance applications that capitalise on Ingeo’s unique material properties.”
According to NatureWorks, the project will include, next to a 75,000 ton-per-year Ingeo PLA production plant, facilities for lactic acid and lactide production, making it the world’s first polylactide facility designed to be fully integrated. NatureWorks Asia Pacific, a wholly owned subsidiary of US-based NatureWorks LLC. will build and operate all three facilities.
Once fully operational, the full portfolio of Ingeo grades will be produced.
The new manufacturing complex will be located at the Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex (NBC) in Nakhon Sawan province, some 200 kilometres north of Bangkok. The NBC is the first biocomplex project in Thailand established in accordance with the government's BCG - Bio Circular Green - bioeconomy policy.
NatureWorks is jointly owned by Thailand’s largest ASEAN leading integrated petrochemical and refining company, PTT Global Chemical, and Cargil, which gives the company a strong tie to the country.
"We have long shared that as we pursue expansion, diversifying our feedstocks and co-locating in a region with an abundant, local feedstock was a high priority. Thailand has a strong agricultural base that can provide the feedstock we are seeking with sugarcane that is already grown for many industrial, non-food end-uses," said Ford.
This status as a major producer of sugarcane, in combination with its strategic location and strong logistics network, has enabled Thailand to grow into the leading bioplastics producer in Southeast Asia, and a preferred choice for investment in this fast-growing sector.
For NatureWorks, the new project is the next step in a journey that started in 2002, when it became the first company to produce PLA biopolymers at commercial scale. In 2013, NatureWorks expanded its flagship Blair, NE facility to an annual total capacity of 150,000 metric tons, making it the largest PLA manufacturing plant in the world. The company also completed a portfolio of enhancements to the Blair site enabling the plant to establish a new record production level in 2019.