Avantium is among the leading technology companies specialized in the area of advanced catalytic research, with groundbreaking innovation as primary goal. It does this through two distinct propositions: Catalysis and YXY. Based on this expertise it has developed a novel process for the creation of commercial PEF and has developed 100% biobased bottles made of polyethylene furanoate (PEF).
Avantium’s patented technology (YXY) converts biomass into furanics building blocks such as 2,5-furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA) that can replace terephtalic acid (TA) and be polymerized with ethylene glycol (EG) to PEFas shown in the following scheme
PEF has superior barrier properties compared to PET with a 10 times better O2 barrier, a four times better CO2 barrier, and twice as good water vapor barrier; it also has more attractive thermal properties with a higher glass transition temperature of 86°C (Avantium, 2013). The first commercial-scale plant had been announced to be operational in 2019.
A major step toward industrialization of PEF
“Today we made a huge step towards the first commercial scale plant for PEF,” says Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium. “We closed a financing round of €36 million ($ 50 million) from a unique consortium of Swire Pacific, The Coca-Cola Company, DANONE, ALPLA, and existing shareholders as Sofinnova Partners, Capricorn Venture Partners, ING Corporate Investments, Aescap Venture, Navitas Capital, Aster Capital and De Hoge Dennen Capital. “We are very pleased with this unique group of investors,” says Frank Roerink, CFO. “Not only because they have shown their commitment on the technology but also that we will develop this together. We need each other’s knowledge, expertise and experience. And we all share the same vision, which gives a clear direction and creates a lot of energy.”
“ This investment makes it possible for us to complete the industrial validation of PEF and finalize the engineering and design of the first commercial scale plant “continues Tom van Aken.” In our pilot plant in Geleen (NL) we already produce the real material at 20ton scale, but obviously our partners need larger quantities for both technical testing and market tests. We have successfully made PEF bottles with YXY technology that meet their needs on performance and sustainability. Now we need to scale up. This investment from our partners affirms their commitment to the YXY technology to produce PEF. “It is really special that iconic players in the food and beverage industry invest in a technology partner like Avantium. That gives us a common goal: make 100% biobased plastic bottles for their products. Together we believe that PEF is the packaging material of the future”
Frank Roerink, CFO, adds: “When my kids grow up and buy a Coke in a PEF bottle, based on 100% biobased material, recyclable and with better barrier properties, we actually made the world a bit more sustainable.”
How much so actually?
Sustainability of PEF
Eerhart et al. (2012) reported that production of PEF can reduce nonrenewable energy use by 40–50% and greenhouse gas emissions by 45–55% compared to PET on a cradle-to-grave basis as shown in the following graph.
These reductions are higher than for other biobased plastics such as PLA or bioPE. Given that annual global production of PET bottles is around 15 million tons, substitution by PEF could save 440–520 petajoules (PJ) of nonrenewable energy use and reduce greenhouse gases by 20–35 t of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Greenhouse gases could be reduced further by a switch to lignocellulose feedstocks, but more research is required.
In his speech , Tom van Aken said quite rightly so:” Important is our ultimate goal, the PEF bottle made from responsibly sourced plant based materials, such as 2nd generation feedstock. We think, and our partners agree, that we are on the right path and in the unique position with our YXY technology to make this a reality. With this technology we will realize the packaging of the future.”