Bioplastics company Total Corbion PLA has started up its 75 kilotonne per annum (ktpa) polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastics plant in Rayong, Thailand.
The plant has successfully produced Luminy PLA resins, which are bio-based and, in some cases, biodegradable as well, Total Corbion said in a Dec. 3 news release.
The 50/50 joint venture between the French energy giant Total SA and Dutch biochemicals company Corbion NV was set up in the Netherlands in late 2016 for the development of bioplastics.
The new industrial-scale facility will produce a broad range of Luminy PLA resins from renewable, non-genetically modified sugarcane sourced locally in Thailand. These include standard PLA, high heat PLA and PDLA with “unique properties.”
The products can be used in a number of applications, notably in packaging, consumer goods, 3D printing, fibers and automotive. The materials are also specifically optimized for extrusion, thermoforming, injection molding and fiber spinning processes.
Total Corbion PLA also announced that it is expanding production of lactide, the monomer required for the production of PLA, at the same site to 100 ktpa.
A 1 ktpa PLA pilot plant, which has been operational since December 2017, will be used for product development at the site, the company added.
“The start-up … establishes Total Corbion PLA as a world-scale PLA bioplastic producer, ideally located to serve growing markets from Asia Pacific to Europe and the Americas,” CEO Stephane Dion said.
The commercial-scale production, according to Bernard Pinatel, president of refining and chemicals at Total, is “fully in line” with the French company's strategy to expand in petrochemicals and innovate in low-carbon solutions.
“Bioplastics are a great complement to our more traditional petrochemicals products to meet the rising demand for polymers while contributing towards reducing end-of-life concerns,” Pinatel said.
According to Total Corbion, with the start-up of the new plant, global production of PLA has increased by almost 50 percent to 240 ktpa.
PLA is a fast-growing polymer market with an estimated annual growth rate of 10-15 percent.
At the end of their useful life, PLA products can be mechanically or chemically recycled, or in some cases, composted.