The madness of green PET drop-in versus the opportunities of its bio-PEF replacement

By Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan Gruter - Chief Technology Officer Avantium Technology

A lot of attention has been focused on developing new technologies from non-fossil based resources for providing energy and chemicals, such as monomers for plastics and other materials. Although for energy, besides biomass, also other alternatives such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc. exist, for materials the only alternative resource is biomass. In the race to bring bio-based polymers to the market, two different strategies can be observed.

On the one hand, a lot of effort is directed to produce molecules that we already use today (drop-in) such as bio-based ethylene, propylene, para-xylene (terephthalic acid) and ethylene glycol. Many of the technologies under development use carbohydrates, typically C6H12O6 as starting material. However, it can be questioned if it makes sense to produce hydrocarbons such as p-xylene (C8; no oxygen) from glucose (C6; more than half its mass oxygen).

On the other hand, does it not make more sense to develop new monomers when changing from hydrocarbon fossil fuels to carbohydrate biomass? ‘New’ monomers such as lactic acid, succinic acid, furan dicarboxylic acid and others are examples of products under development by companies that selected the alternative approach, namely to develop new materials.

In the lecture, the pro’s and con’s of ‘drop-in’ versus ‘new’ will be discussed by evaluating the options to bio-PET and its alternative bio-PEF by zooming in on economics and into technical opportunities and challenges.

Process intensification and the partial replacement of fossil based resources by biomass-based and renewable resource form the basis for the Sustainable Chemistry Development. The integration of waste (including also waste gases as CO2 and H2) and wastewater management and technologies are key in the development of a sustainable World. This also is the basis of the Sewage Plus concept, a combined waste and wastewater treatment system leading to reduced energy consumption in water treatment and production.

Presentation file here