Elevance Renewable Sciences, Woodridge, Ill., and Wilmar International Ltd., Singapore, have begun shipping commercial quantities of novel biobased specialty chemicals suitable for plastics and other industrial uses from their joint-venture biorefinery in Indonesia. It is the first commercial plant to use Elevance’s proprietary catalysis technology to convert plant oils into specialty chemicals with unique combinations of long-chain olefins and ester functionality. An example is 9-decenoic methyl ester, a 10-carbon olefinic ester that could have applications in long-chain nylons, thermoset polyesters, polyurethanes, and polyols, says Celene DiFrancia, platform leader for engineering polymers. Partners for developing applications for this product (9-DAME) include Arkema, King of Prussia, Pa., a maker of specialty nylons for durable goods, and Stepan Co., Northfield, Ill., which could use it for surfactants, polyols, and PUR.
Elevance is a relatively new specialty chemicals company, started in 2007 to pursue R&D started at Cargill in 2004. It has $300 million in equity funding and employs 150. Wilmar International is one of Asia’s largest agribusiness firms and one of the world’s largest processor of plant oils. The new joint-venture plant has a capacity of 400 million lb/yr and will use palm oil initially, though it can process a variety of other plant oils. In addition, Elevance has acquired a biodiesel plant in Natchez, Miss., which is being converted to produce specialty chemicals. According to exec. v.p. Andy Shafer, it will process soy or canola oils when it starts up in 2016 with a capacity slightly larger than the Indonesian plant.