ARLINGTON, VA. (March 13, 12:20 p.m. ET) — How rising oil prices and the shale gas boom will impact bioplastics — and help shape which bioplastic resins become niche products and which ones could end up as mainstream resins — will be explored as part of the BioPlastek 2012 forum in Arlington later this month.
The forum, organized by Schotland Research Inc. in Skillman, N.J., will also look at the role of bioplastics in the building and construction market, and explore how Coca-Cola's investment in three technology companies could shape and potentially accelerate the development of a PET bottle made from plants.
Shell Huang, director of packaging research at Coca-Cola, will discuss the company's road map to develop a PET bottle made completely from plants.
In addition, two of Coca-Cola's three technology parters, Virent and Gevo will discuss the advances they have made in making purified terephthalic acid from non-petroleum sources — the missing 70 percent link needed to make a PET bottle entirely from non-petroleum sources.
Virent, for example, will discuss the status of its pilot plant in Madison, Wis., and the five new parents it was recently granted for the BioForming process technology the company is developing to make bio-based paraxylene for use in Coca-Cola packaging. Paraxylene is a precursor to building block PTA.
What's more, Mark Morgan, global managing director for renewables at consultancy IHS, will compare the economics of drop-in bioplastics and their petro-derived counterparts and shed light on the economic of BioPET alternatives, illustrating what can and what cannot be cost effective vs. conventional PET.
To set the stage for the conference, the opening session will focus on brand owner and consumer attitudes toward bioplastics and whether current messages from brand owners are sufficiently clear or create confusion in the minds of consumers and whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for bio-based products instead of petroleum-based products.
The conference will also explore the challenge of assessing whether bioplastics meet the performance and durability demands on exterior building products with speakers from CertainTeed, PlyGem Industries, the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, the Plastic Pipe Institute and Sherwin-Williams.
But maybe the most intriguing session will look at how the potential development of massive shale gas resources will impact the economic viability of renewable chemicals and drop-in bio-based plastics, especially high volume polyethylene, polypropylene and PET.
Currently, shale gas sourced PE has a cost advantage over sugarcane-derived, biobased PE from Brazil. But as second-generation biomass processes evolve (e.g. cellulosic ethanol), the unanswered question is whether that will favor renewable PE drop-ins.
A more complex question is what impact will shale gas have on the economics of biobased PET, which has two building blocks and whether the pathways to plant-based paraxylene will benefit or suffer from the effects of shale gas development.
BioPlastek 2012 will be held March 28-30 at the Westin Arlington Gateway in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, For more information, visit www.bioplastek.com.