4 November 2005

DuPont makes plans to market “green” polymer

In a bid to shift away from dependence on oil resources, the US company plans to mass-produce a polymer made chiefly from corn

To reduce its dependency on oil resources, US company DuPont plans to commercialize a polymer derived from renewable resources, mainly corn, starting next year, a company official said yesterday in Taipei.

The company’s Sorona polymer uses 1,3-propanediol (PDO) as its key building block, and undergoes a proprietary fermentation and purification process based on corn sugar. Sorona is stain-resistant, soft and stretches, and can be used in apparel, upholstery, textile fibers and other products, according to DuPont.

“This will be a hit product for DuPont in the coming years,” Joseph Carroll, global business manager of DuPont Bio-Based Materials, told a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Market Timing

With skyrocketing oil prices and the rising awareness about environmental protection, the polymer is expected strike the right note, because its production process uses less energy, reduces emissions and employs renewable resources instead of traditional petrochemical processes, Carroll said.

Sonora was developed in the early 1940s, but was too costly to produce at that time.

Mass production

After decades of improvement, Sonora will be mass produced starting in March through DuPont Tate & Lyle BioProducts LLC, a joint venture DuPont formed with UK-based ingredient maker Tate & Lyle Plc last year.

The company’s first plant, in Tennessee, has a capacity of 45,000 tons of Bio-PDO per year, Carroll said.

To shift away from being an oil-dependent company, DuPont plans to derive 25 percent of its revenues from renewable resources by 2010, and the commercialization of Sonora would help to reach this target, Carroll said.

Renewable

DuPont derived 14 percent of its 2002 revenues from renewable resources.

Eying the large market potential in Asia, DuPont is looking for a suitable site to build a second, higher-capacity, plant in the region, Carroll said.

The company will finalize the location for the Asian plant next year, he added.

As Sonora’s texture is similar to nylon 6 – often used in carpeting, clothing and industrial applications – DuPont is targeting to snatch a slice of that market, Carroll said.

Global demand for nylon 6 is about 2.25 billion kilograms per year, and DuPont will consider it a success if it gains a 1 percent or 2 percent market share with Sonora, he added.

Local partner

DuPont has contracted 10 partners in various countries, including Far Eastern Textile Ltd in Taiwan.

Far Eastern Textile signed a contract with DuPont six years ago to develop various products using Sonora, but the market presence is still limited, said Eagle Chen, a deputy manager of Far Eastern Textile’s filament division.

With the concept of “green chemistry” rising in recent years, Sonora can be very competitive, Chen said.

But the key to prevailing is cost, as DuPont has set a price level similar to nylon, Chen said.

(Cf. news of Sept. 02, 2005, Aug. 22, 2005 and Febr. 27, 2003.)

Source: Taipei Times Nov. 02, 2005.

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