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Bio–Based Polymers

Fast Growth of Bio–Polymers: Production to Triple by 2020

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The most dynamic development is foreseen for drop-in bio-based polymers, but this is closely followed by new bio-based polymers. Drop-in bio-based polymers are chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts but at least partially derived from biomass. This group is spearheaded by partly bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) whose production capacity was around 600,000 tons in 2013 and is projected to reach about 7 million tons by 2020, using bio-ethanol from sugar cane.

Bio-based PET production is expanding at high rates worldwide, largely due to the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) initiative launched by The Coca-Cola Company.

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Bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymers PLA and PHA show the fastest rates of market growth.
Bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymers PLA and PHA show the fastest rates of market growth.
(Picture: Nova Institut)

The second most dynamic development is foreseen for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which, contrary to bio-based PET, are new polymers, but still have similar growth rates to those of bio-based PET. Polylactic acid (PLA) and bio-based polyurethanes (PUR) are showing impressive growth as well: their production capacities are expected to almost quadruple between 2013 and 2020.

Asia Favourably Positioned for Bio–Boom

Most investment in new bio-based polymer capacities will take place in Asia because of better access to feedstock and favorable political framework. Europe’s share is projected to decrease from 17 % to 8 %, and North America’s share is set to fall from 18 % to 4 %, whereas Asia’s is predicted to increase from 51 % to 76 %.

South America is likely to remain constant with a share at around 12%. In other words, world market shares are expected to shift dramatically. Asia is predicted to experience most of the developments in the field of bio-based building block and polymer production, while Europe and North America are slated to lose more than a half and just over three quarters of their shares, respectively.

Bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymers PLA and PHA show the fastest rates of market growth.
Bio-based drop-in PET and the new polymers PLA and PHA show the fastest rates of market growth.
(Picture: Nova Institut)

Bio–Polymers: An Established Market?

The forecast of a total production capacity of 17 million tonnes of bio-based polymers suggests that the market is definitely well established and growing. It is also shown that the development of bio-based polymers is still very dynamic.

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