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#BIOWC16 Workshop: BASF and Avantium Joint Venture to Lead in the Production of FDCA and PEF

April 19, 2016
On Day 3 of the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, BIO hosted a Workshop titled "BASF and Avantium Joint Venture: Global Market and Technology Leadership on FDCA and PEF."

BASF and Avantium have recently announced their joint venture for the production and
commercialization of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) and polyethylenefuranoate (PEF). FDCA is one of the most promising biobased building blocks with multiple applications. Avantium has developed a proprietary catalytic process to convert biomass into FDCA economically. The main application of FDCA is PEF, a polyester with superior properties over polyesters like PET, offering novel packaging opportunities.

By joining forces with BASF, the companies combine the Avantium technology with the manufacturing and engineering know how and the scale of BASF, which puts them on a pathway towards global market and technology leadership on FDCA and PEF.

This Workshop was moderated by Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest, and paneled by:

  1. 1Tom van Aken, CEO, Avantium

  2. Nathan Kemeling, Director Business Development YXY, Avantium

  3. Cordula Mock-Knoblauch, Director Renewables & Sustainability, Global New Business Development Operating Division Intermediates, BASF

The CEO of Avantium, Tom van Aken, kicked off the panel by discussing the building blocks behind Avantium's technology. He stated that the YXY technology turns biomass into Mono Ethylene Gycol quickly and at a cost competitive rate. Tom van Aken then described the Avantium/BASF relationship -Avantium has the technology know-how while BASF has world-class scale-up manufacturing expertise, allowing both companies to really break through the FDCA and PEF markets. It was interesting that he noted that the joint venture maintains the companies' IP position and strength by covering the whole value chain from sugar to film and bottle. Tom van Aken concluded by stating that the Avantium/BASF Partnership will lead to the construction of a commercial-scale biorefinery which will take the technology to the industrial scale.

Cordula Mock-Knoblauch opened by noting what BASF is currently working on and outlined the company's business portfolio which is divided into five categories 1) Chemicals (petrochemicals, monormoers and intermediates); 2) Performance products; 3) Functional materials & solutions; 4) Agricultural solutions; and 5) Oil & gas. She also discussed BASF's three pathways to the company's renewable-based product portfolio 1) Mass balanced products, 2) Biobased drop-ins, specifically their renewable BDO - from biomass to biobased textiles; and 3) Partnering to establish FDCA value chain.

Mock-Knoblauch continued by commenting on BASF's Verbund method which means that BASF's production plants are integrated along the value-adding chains. This makes the production processes more efficient, reduces cost, increases safety and decreases inputs. Mock-Knoblauch stated that BASF's mission is to create chemicals for a sustainable future...
"We contribute to a world that provides a viable future for society."

She concluded by arguing that the way the world is being run right now is not sustainable and that we need more renewable-based products to ensure a better future for all.

Nathan Kemeling wrapped up the panel by describing the market opportunities for PEF. First, he detailed  the performance benefits of small PEF bottles for carbonated beverages:
"PEF is a highly competitive alternative to existing packaging...less oxygen outside the bottle and less carbonation inside the bottle which can help extend shelf life. It can also help meet consumer demand for smaller bottles (smaller servings)."

Kemeling stated that PEF can be used to make better beer bottles for events. It allows the bottle to be unbreakable, so safer for the consumer, thermally stable, light weight and again it can help increase the shelf life of the product. He discussed how PEF can also increase the performance of film for food and packaging by making it stronger, more transparent, better the aroma, oxygen, and carbon dioxide barriers and decrease the cost of the film. Kemeling concluded by commenting on Avanium's partnerships including its recent partnership with Mitsui on films and bottles for Asia.