NatureWorks LLC plans to build a new, fully integrated polylactic acid resin plant in Thailand.
The Thailand Board of Investment approved the project last month. Minnetonka, Minn.-based NatureWorks estimated the plant will cost more than 15 billion baht, or around $490 million.
NatureWorks is a leading global producer of PLA, a plant-based resin that it markets under the Ingeo trademark. The company is jointly owned by Cargill and PTT Global Chemical, a Thai state-owned company.
According to NatureWorks' June 3 announcement, the company has already completed the front-end engineering design for the facility, with final detailed engineering currently underway.
NatureWorks expects to announce further details on the new facility later this year.
Securing approval from Thailand Board of Investment was a critical milestone, said Rich Altice, president and CEO of NatureWorks.
"With both the recently announced capacity expansion at our facility in Blair, Neb., and this new manufacturing complex, we can further address the global market demand for sustainable materials and continue leading the development of high-performance applications that capitalize on Ingeo's unique material properties," Altice said.
According to NatureWorks, the project will include a 75,000-metric-ton-per-year Ingeo PLA production plant, plus facilities for lactic acid and lactide production, making it the world's first polylactide facility designed to be fully integrated.
NatureWorks Asia Pacific, a wholly owned subsidiary of NatureWorks LLC, will build and operate all three facilities.
Once fully operational, the full portfolio of Ingeo grades will be produced.
The new manufacturing complex will be located at the Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex (NBC) in Nakhon Sawan province, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Bangkok. The NBC is the first biocomplex project in Thailand established in accordance with the government's BCG (Bio-Circular-Green) bioeconomy policy.
Thailand is the leading bioplastics producer in Southeast Asia, due to its status as a major producer of sugarcane, in combination with its strategic location and strong logistics networks. The country has grown into a preferred choice for investment in this fast-growing sector.
In 2002, NatureWorks became the first company to produce PLA biopolymers at commercial scale. In 2013, NatureWorks expanded its flagship facility in Blair to an annual total capacity of 150,000 metric tons, making it the largest PLA manufacturing plant in the world.
NatureWorks completed a portfolio of enhancements to the Blair site in 2019, enabling the plant to establish a new record production level.