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Firm boosts production of plastics from greenhouse gases

By: Michael Lauzon

October 12, 2012

IRVINE, CALIF. (Oct. 12, 12 p.m. ET) — A California company said it is scaling up production of plastics made by combining greenhouse gases and oxygen.

Newlight Technologies of Irvine announced Oct. 11 the addition of 100,000 pounds per year in new production capacity of its gas-to-plastics production line. It claims the process converts air and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane to high-performance bioplastics that cost less than oil-based plastics.

Newlight says its technology allows production of high-performance polymers that can compete with polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS and thermoplastic polyurethanes.

The patented system relies on a high biocatalyst-to-polymer efficiency, an order of magnitude in cost reductions in downstream processing, and proprietary polymer functionalization to give polyhydroxy alkanaote materials competitive with oil-based plastics.

“We have been working to bring our technology to commodity scale since 2003, so it is exciting for us as our growth curve accelerates,” stated Newlight technical officer Kenton Kimmel in a news release. Kimmel and Mark Herrema say they founded the firm in 2003 out of Princeton University and Northwestern University.

The partners claim the system can use a wide range of carbon sources, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane from wastewater treatment systems, landfills and power plants.

If proved commercially, the system would be a highly sustainable route to plastics that compete with conventionally made polymers.

Newlight says it plans to add multi-million pounds of new capacity in the medium term. It says customers have begun using it in furniture parts, storage containers and packaging.