Metabolix and CheilJedang in PHA Deal

31.03.2016 -

US bioplastics company Metabolix has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CJ CheilJedang (CJ), a Korean industrial biotechnology firm, to commercialize production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

Under the non-binding MoU, the companies will work to conclude definitive agreements whereby CJ will fund, construct and operate a 10,000 t/y plant based on Metabolix’ PHA technology.

The facility will be located at CJ Bio’s site in Fort Dodge, Iowa, USA, following a comprehensive feasibility study and assessment in late 2015 and early 2016. CJ is finalizing the budget and amount of capital investment required with construction expected to begin in the coming months.

Metabolix will buy the specialty PHAs produced at Fort Dodge, marketing and selling them to its commercial customers.

The companies said they also expect to define a framework to expand the collaboration for larger-scale PHA production and related commercial activities in the longer-term.

Joseph Shaulson, Metabolix’s president and CEO, said the agreement provides a path to establishing the first tranche of commercial production capacity for its specialty PHA biopolymers. “In addition to the significant investment in manufacturing at Fort Dodge, CJ brings impressive engineering capabilities and operating expertise that will be critical to the success of this project,” he said.

Head of CJ Bio, Hang Duk Roh, added that Metabolix’s newly launched amorphous PHA (a-PHA) will be a stepping stone for further expansion of its biochemical portfolio. “The shift Metabolix has made to focus on a-PHA as a performance additive as well as other specialty applications of PHAs is very promising, and we are excited about the synergies than can be gained by combining our facilities and operating capabilities with the ongoing work Metabolix is doing to build the market for specialty biopolymers,” he commented.

Roh said that once modification of the Fort Dodge facility was complete, it would be able to produce both lysine and a-PHA.

According to Metabolix, specialty PHAs have unique chemistries that allow them to be used as multi-functional additives. It said it was working to leverage the biopolymers’ properties in the target applications of PVC and polylactic acid (PLA) modification, functional biodegradation and paper coating.

The company launched a-PHA from pilot production in 2015. During 2016, it is focusing on securing initial and recurring sales in anticipation of growing customer orders to base-load the new capacity at Fort Dodge.