Does Bio-Polypropylene Make Economic Sense?

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<p> 1. Does Bio-Polypropylene Make Economic Sense?SKILLMAN, NJ - With its successful launch of bio-polyethylene, Braskem is now also turning its attention tobio-based polypropylene. The company recently announced that it will produce at least 30,000 metrictonnes/year of bio-based propylene from ethanol by the end of 2013. The propylene will be used to makepolypropylene and will have the same properties as conventional hydrocarbon-derived propylene. Braskemacquired the PP business of Sunoco in 2010 and of Dow in 2011, so the motivation to expand its portfolio toinclude bio-based PP is understandable.But the big question is if the bio-based PP will be cost-competitive with conventional petro-derived PP. Thisquestion will be tackled by Nexant consultant Ronald Cascone in a presentation to be delivered at theBioPlastek 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 mustbe 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. (Theassumption is that since the bio-based propylene monomer will have the same properties as the petro-derivedmonomer, the corresponding PP resins will perform in similar fashion.In a just-published multiclient study, Nexant identifies several renewable propylene routes with the possiblepotential to compete with conventional fossil fuel derived production routes. Cascone believes the two mosteconomically 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).Braskems relatively small propylene plant will utilize the readily available dimerization and metathesistechnologies, according to Nexant. The consultancy also believes that this approach may not be on a pareconomically with petro-derived propylene mostly because of small plant size. Although the gasificationapproach to produce syngas is economical, it is less attractive because it is capital intensive. Longer term, thedirect 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 Nexants view.Novozymes is collaborating with Braskem towards commercializing this pathway.To hear details of Nexants quantitative comparison of the cost of producing bio-propylene versus conventionalpetrochemical propylene, plan on attending the BioPlastek 2012 Forum. This talk will be part of a uniquesession -- not found at competitive conferences -- which compares the economics of drop-in biopolymers andtheir petro-derived counterparts as well as presenting comparative comparative feedstock economics.Visit http://www.bioplastek.com to register for this "must attend" event. Ultimately, its always abouteconomics. # ##</p>