LANXESS is strengthening its commitment to renewable raw materials. The German specialty chemicals company aims to produce phthalate-free plasticizers from bio-based succinic acid from 2012 onwards. Its strategic partner is the U.S. company BioAmber, Inc., based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. BioAmber is a global leader in succinic acid generated on the basis of renewable resources. Together, the two companies are developing plasticizers, whose cost-effectiveness and safety profile make them sustainable alternatives to phthalate-containing formulations.
BioAmber produces succinic acid through the fermentation of renewable raw materials. The process developed by BioAmber consumes considerably less energy than the production of succinic acid using fossil fuels, is significantly more cost-effective and has a better carbon footprint. In the future, the company plans to use waste from the agriculture industry and sugarcane processing as starting materials.
“Our cooperation with BioAmber is a unique opportunity to launch a new generation of plasticizers on the market that meet all legal regulations and can also score in terms of environmental aspects and sustainability,” said Jorge Nogueira, head of LANXESS’ Functional Chemicals business unit that manufactures phthalate-free plasticizers.
Phthalate-free plasticizers gaining importance
As a market leader in the field of phthalate-free plasticizers, LANXESS has large capacities, expertise in production and a global distribution network. Its key products include Mesamoll, Adimoll, Ultramoll and Unimoll. Through the acquisition of the UNITEX Chemical Corporation based in Greensboro, North Carolina, LANXESS also now has access to an additional capacity of 50,000 metric tons per year, plus an extensive portfolio of phthalate-free plasticizers such as benzoates, citrates and trimellitates.
BioAmber manufactures bio-based succinic acid in Pomacle, France, at a plant with 3,000 metric tons of capacity per year. It will add a further 17,000 metric tons of capacity from 2013 with a new facility to be built in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, at LANXESS’ site there.
The global market for phthalate-free plasticizers is currently estimated at EUR 1.3 billion – with annual growth rates of around seven percent. As a result of legal initiatives, demand for phthalate-free plasticizers is growing in markets such as North America, Western Europe and Japan. An increase in demand is also being observed in global growth markets such as Latin America. Authorities are increasingly restricting the use of phthalate-containing plasticizers for consumer goods such as toys, food packaging and cables.
LANXESS is strongly committed to using renewable raw materials to produce premium synthetic rubbers. From November 2011, LANXESS will produce the world’s first bio-based EPDM rubber in Brazil. The Brazilian company Braskem will supply the raw material ethylene derived from sugarcane. This will be marketed under the name Keltan Eco.
In addition, LANXESS has invested in U.S. biofuel and biochemical manufacturer Gevo, Inc., which produces isobutanol from renewable resources such as corn. LANXESS plans to convert the isobutanol to isobutene, a key raw material for the manufacture of butyl rubber.
LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of EUR 7.1 billion in 2010 and currently around 15,800 employees in 30 countries. The company is at present represented at 46 production sites worldwide. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals. LANXESS is a member of the leading sustainable indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) World and FTSE4Good.
Source: Lanxess, press release, 2011-10-20.