Markets of bio-based building blocks by Philippa Davies

Graph showing again the decorrelation between the oil price and the price of dextrose in the US to the detriment of the latter in the last two years. Ethylene and propylene prices are actually lower than the price of dextrose in the US and Asia.

10th International Conference on Bio-bases Marerials – Köln, Germany- May 10-11, 2017

This results into a slowdown in drop-in bio-based commodity chemicals like adipic acid, acrylic acid, glycols, epichlorohydrin, butanols and 1.4 butanediols.

The bio based PET landscape is even more in the doldrums for bio- monoethylene glycol (MEG) suppliers stalling or stopping their plant projects.

Novel building blocks like FDCA, FDME/5-HMF, levulinic acid, farnesene, 1.3 propanediol, itaconic acid, malonic acid and glucaric acid show better perspectives as they are actually offering better properties and performances in target applications than teir oil based couterparts.

Development of altenatives to petro PTA continues with Avantium & BASF on FDCA, Dupont & ADM on FDME.

Bio-succinic acid also navigates tough economics, mainly because of low prices and overcapacity of maleic acid produced in China. Novamont started its bio-BDO operation in Sardinia Italy, mainly for internal use to produce bioplastics, as part of its Mater-bi range. BioAmber continues plan for succinic acid based BDO project. No new project announced as economic viability far from being proven.

Bio PU/polyols: the plant oil polyols market continues to develop towards maturity which is good news. Bio-isocyanates R&D and derived projects remain limited.
Bio-polyamides continue their progress with DSM

By and large, companies are refocusing on high profits / low volume specialty areas, away from high volumes bio-based commodities that suffer from an adverse sugar versus petroleum price gap. This shapes a perspective that turns its back to what was forecasted in the last 5 years but sounds to me to stand much stronger on its feet as a long term strategy for profitable growth.

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