DuPont and ADM Start Bioplastic Pilot Plant
Agricommerce giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and chemical giant DowDuPont have inaugurated a pilot plant at Decatur, Illinois, USA, to test manufacture a new bioplastic made from ADM’s 2,5-furan dicarboxylic methyl ester ( FDME) and a renewable material made by DowDuPont. The end-product will be a petroleum-free plastic that also can be blended with traditional plastics to create stronger and more resilient packaging.
Derived from fructose, FDME is a molecule that can be used to create a variety of bio-based chemicals and materials, including plastics, that DuPont Industrial Biosciences said are ultimately more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable than their fossil fuel-based counterparts.
The joint development, which began with a collaboration in January 2016, won Platts Global Energy’s Breakthrough Solution of the Year Award that year. In 2017 it won the Innovation in Bioplastics Award from the US plastics industry association PLASTICS.
One of the first FDME-based polymers to emerge from the DuPont pipeline is polytrimethylene furandicarboxyate (PTF), a new polyester made from the company’s proprietary Bio-PDO (1,3-propanediol. The fully recyclable polymer can be used to produce plastic bottles that are lighter weight, more sustainable and better performing than PET, the manufacturer claims.
The company to be part of the DowDuPont agriculture carve-out Corteva said its research shows that PTF has up to 10-15 times the CO2 barrier performance of traditional PET, thus guaranteeing a longer shelf life. The lightweight packaging lowers carbon emissions as well as significantly reducing the cost of shipping carbonated beverages.
Plans still in the drawer call for construction of a commercial scale plant for the plastic somewhere in the US corn belt. The partners said the most cost-efficient location would have close access to cheap, high-quality corn-derived fructose.
This would mean choosing a site near one of ADM's corn wet mills.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Greg Webb, vice president of state government relations at ADM, said his company has “a fleet of these types of corn processing plants” in the region. He said a decision will be made as soon as the process becomes scalabe. Whichever location is chosen, he added, the project should create a new market for US corn producers.
DowDuPont said it remains to be seen how much interest the new material will generate, as the price will depend on the cost of corn-sugar processing and how much the renewable plastic could undercut demand for conventional petrochemical-derived plastics.
The FDME production technology is claimed to generate higher yields and lower energy and capital expenditure compared with traditional conversion methods. The companies have not revealed details of the process.