WEB EXCLUSIVE: NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., the world’s first and largest supplier of polylactic acid (PLA) biopolymers, has received an investment of $150 million from PTT Chemical Public Co.

 

WEB EXCLUSIVE: NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., the world’s first and largest supplier of polylactic acid (PLA) biopolymers, has received an investment of $150 million from PTT Chemical Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand in return for a 50% share of the company. NatureWorks, until now wholly owned by Cargill, will use some of that cash to build its second world-scale PLA plant in Thailand. The plant will be similar in size to its Blair, Neb., facility (280 million lb). The Thai plant will produce Ingeo-brand PLA by fermentation of plant sugars and starches obtained from sugar cane and cassava root, both grown for industrial ethanol production in Thailand, so they will not consume food crops. The plant is due to be up and running by late 2015.
 
PTT Chemical is a $3.3-billion producer of polyethylenes, polystyrene, and chemicals. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
 
While NatureWorks’ current PLA capacity is ample to serve the existing market, the company has seen steady 25% to 30% annual growth in demand. The new plant will supply Ingeo materials globally, but Asia is one of its fastest-growing markets, especially in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Asian demand is said to be driven by such factors as interest in renewable raw materials, scarcity of landfills for waste disposal (PLA is compostable), and production of disposable food-service items for export.