Oil and gas company Total SA and lactic acid specialist Corbion NV are joining forces to develop bioplastics by creating a 50/50 joint venture to produce and market polylactic acid (PLA) polymers.
The two partners plan to build a PLA polymerization plant with a capacity of 75,000 metric tons per year at Corbion's site in Thailand that already has a lactide (PLA monomer) production unit set to become part of the joint venture.
The announcement came less than a week after Corbion and government officials in Thailand marked the start of construction for the a PLA polymerization plant in Gorinchem.
Corbion will use proprietary polymerization technology from Sulzer Chemtech Ltd. of Switzerland at the plant, Corbion noted in a Nov. 14 news release. Corbion also is expanding capacity its existing lactide plant in Thailand by 25,000 metric tons per year.
Corbion will supply the lactic acid necessary for the production of the PLA and the lactide in the joint venture in Total.
The new JV company will be based in the Netherlands and will launch operations in the first quarter of 2017, subject to regulatory approvals.
“I'm very pleased with this joint venture, which aims to become a major player in the growing bioplastics market,” said Bernard Pinatel, president of Total Refining & Chemicals.
“Corbion's unique position in the lactic acid and biopolymers value chain makes it a natural choice for Total. The joint venture will allow us to supply an innovative material that is 100 percent renewable and biodegradable and that responds to sustainability concerns.”
PLA is a biobased, biodegradable polymer obtained by fermenting renewable resources to produce lactic acid. PLA is mainly used for food packaging, disposable tableware and textiles, as well as in numerous other industries such as oil and gas, electronics, automotive and 3D printing.
Corbion chief executive Tjerk de Ruiter, said: “PLA is one of the first renewable, biodegradable polymers able to compete with existing polymers. The joint venture, which will combine Total's technical and marketing knowledge and leading position in polymers with Corbion's expertise in lactic acid and biopolymers, will enable us to supply innovative products and will accelerate market acceptance.”