Braskem Aims for ‘Green’ PET

Through a new partnership, the company seeks biobased production of a key raw material—MEG—in a cost-effective way.

Having made some significant commercial strides with its Green PE, Brazil’s Braskem (U.S. Braskem America Inc., Philadelphia) is now focusing on biobased PET as evidenced by its newly-announced partnership with Danish-based Haldor Topsoe, a global leader in catalysis and surface science. For now, it appears that Green PP, which had been expected to be the next step, is being put on the back burner.

The partners’ new technological cooperation agreement is to develop a pioneering route to produce MEG (monoethylene glycol), a key component of PET resin, from sugar. Construction of a pilot plant in Denmark, with a 2019 operational startup, is part of the agreement.

This demonstration plant will conduct tests to validate the technology and confirm its technical and economic feasibility, which is a critical step before launching production on an industrial scale and commercial operations. The unit will be flexible to validate the technology in different raw materials such as sucrose, dextrose, and second-generation sugars.

The project is based on a two-step process developed at Topsoe’s labs along with its own catalysts, and focuses on the conversion of sugar into MEG at a single industrial unit, which will reduce initial investment in the production and boost the competitiveness of the process.

Said Mateus Lopes, head of innovation in Renewable Chemicals at Braskem,“This novel biobased initiative allies a cutting-edge technology with deep expertise in process design, scale-up and industrial operation, which will allow us to push the renewable chemistry to a whole new level. After the Green Polyethylene, this is another major step forward in our vision of using renewable polymers as a carbon capture tool and keep contributing to a more sustainable future.”

According to Haldor Topsoe’s executive v.p. Kim Knudsen, catalysis will play a crucial role in the development of sustainable solutions that produce important chemicals from renewable sources such as sugar. “We are proud to deliver the ground-breaking technology for the project with Braskem, and we look forward to applying our world-leading competencies within catalysis and process engineering in the further commercialization of this important technology.”