French energy company Total SA and Corbion, a global market leader in lactic acid, lactic acid derivatives and lactides headquartered in the Netherlands, are forming a 50-50 joint venture to produce and market polylactic (PLA) polymers. The two partners plan to build a world-class PLA polymerization plant with a capacity of 75,000 tonnes per year at Corbion’s site in Thailand that already has a lactide (PLA monomer) production unit that will become part of the joint venture. Corbion will supply the lactic acid necessary for the production of the PLA and the lactide.
The new company will be based in the Netherlands and will launch operations in the first quarter of 2017, subject to regulatory approvals.
“I’m very pleased with this joint venture, which aims to become a major player in the growing bioplastics market. This investment is consistent with our One Total ambition of expanding in biofuels and bioplastics, in addition to our more traditional oil and gas-based products,” said Bernard Pinatel, president of Total Refining & Chemicals. “Corbion’s unique position in the lactic acid and biopolymers value chain makes it a natural choice for Total. The joint venture will allow us to supply an innovative material that is 100% renewable and biodegradable and that responds to sustainability concerns.”
“PLA is one of the first renewable, biodegradable polymers able to compete with existing polymers. The joint venture, which will combine Total’s technical and marketing knowledge and leading position in polymers with Corbion’s expertise in lactic acid and biopolymers, will enable us to supply innovative products and will accelerate market acceptance,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Corbion.
PLA is a bio-based, biodegradable polymer obtained by fermenting renewable resources (sugar or starch) to produce lactic acid. PLA is mainly used for food packaging, disposable tableware and textiles, as well as in numerous other industries such as oil and gas, electronics, automotive and 3D printing.
PLA is a fast-growing polymer market segment, with an estimated average annual growth rate of 10% to 15% to 2025.