Cost-competitiveness of bio-based PP drop-in resin compared with petro-derived PP to be discussed at BioPlastek 2012 Forum in Arlington, Virginia, March 28-30
SKILLMAN, New Jersey
February 14, 2012
– With Braskem planning to commercialize a bio-based PP drop-in resin in late 2013, there is speculation on whether the renewable resin will be cost-competitive with conventional petro-derived PP. This question will be examined in a presentation to be given by Nexant at the BioPlastek 2012 Forum on March 28-30 in Arlington, Virginia, USA. According to the consultancy, Braskem's relatively small propylene plant under construction will use the readily available dimerization and metathesis technologies. It will therefore not be on a par economically with petro-derived propylene. Longer term, there are other more attractive process pathways which, together with use of price-advantaged feedstocks will enable cost parity. The Nexant presentation is part of a unique session at the BioPlastek 2012 Forum on the comparative economics of drop-in biopolymers versus their petro-derived counterparts.
Braskem recently announced that it will produce at least 30,000 metric tonnes/year of bio-based propylene from ethanol by the end of 2013. The propylene will be used to make polypropylene and will have the same properties as conventional hydrocarbon-derived propylene. This has led to speculation as to whether or not the bio-based PP will be cost-competitive with conventional petro-derived PP.
This question will be tackled by Nexant consultant Ronald Cascone in a presentation to be delivered at the BioPlastek 2012 Forum on March 28-30 in Arlington, Virginia, USA.
As with any cost analysis, the answer to the above comparison is "it depends." Among the variables that must be considered are the routes to renewable propylene, economies of scale, feedstock costs and type, geographic access of feedstock to biorefineries and, of course, petrochemical propylene economics. The assumption is that since the bio-based propylene monomer will have the same properties as the petro-derived monomer, the corresponding PP resins will perform in similar fashion.
In a just-published multiclient study, Nexant identifies several renewable propylene routes with the possible potential to compete with conventional fossil fuel derived production routes. Cascone believes the two most economically viable of these pathways now available are:
Using ethanol-derived ethylene to make butylene and, next through a commercial process known as metathesis, react ethylene with butylene to make propylene.
Gasifying biomass to produce syngas for methanol production; methanol is converted to mixed olefins (MTO) or, alternatively, mostly to propylene (MTP).
Braskem's relatively small propylene plant will utilize the readily available dimerization and metathesis technologies, according to Nexant. The consultancy also believes that this approach may not be on a par economically with petro-derived propylene mostly because of small plant size. Although the gasification approach to produce syngas is economical, it is less attractive because it is capital intensive. Longer term, the direct production of propylene in a sugar fermentation process using price-advantaged (e.g. cellulose) feedstocks would likely be substantially more economical than the petrochemical routes, in Nexant's view. Novozyme is collaborating with Braskem towards commercializing this pathway.
To hear details of Nexant's quantitative comparison of the cost of producing bio-propylene versus conventional petrochemical propylene, plan on attending the BioPlastek 2012 Forum. This talk will be part of a unique session -- not found at competitive conferences -- which compares the economics of drop-in biopolymers and their petro-derived counterparts as well as presenting comparative feedstock economics.