Production Process R&D and Innovations

Avantium Ray Technology To Disrupt Mono-Ethylene Glycol Market

Ray TechnologyTM is Avantium’s plants-to-glycols technology producing plant-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), a fossil-free core component for everyday products such as textiles or plastic materials like PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PEF (polyethylene furanoate) (produced by Avantium’s YXY® Technology), making it a key ingredient of products such as plastic bottles and clothing. 

Today, more than 99% of MEG is produced from petroleum, with a market value of about $25 billion. Ray TechnologyTM aims to produce plant-based MEG that is chemically identical to petroleum-based MEG and competitive in terms of cost and quality. 

Avantium’s Ray Technology delivers an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective plant-based alternative for fossil MEG, producing it in a single-step process from plant-based sugars.

How does Ray TechnologyTM work?

Ray TechnologyTM is a highly efficient one-step hydrogenolysis process to produce MEG from plant-based sugars, with a maximum theoretical yield of 100% and a practical yield of over 70%.

This direct pathway from sugars to MEG makes Avantium’s plant-based MEG cost-competitive with fossil- based alternatives, while reducing the supply chain’s dependence on fossil feedstocks.

Avantium will use sugars from various 1st generation feedstock such as sugar beet, sugar cane, wheat and corn, as well as 2nd generation non-food feedstock such as forestry or agricultural residues which is converted into sugars by Avantium’s Dawn TechnologyTM.

Internal calculations show that the process to produce plant-based MEG by Avantium’s Ray

TechnologyTM significantly reduces the CO2 equivalent versus traditional processes to produce fossil- based MEG. If you consider the source – plants instead of oil -, internal calculations show that the production of plant-based MEG by Avantium’s Ray TechnologyTM reduces the CO2 equivalent with around 70% versus traditional production of fossil-based MEG.

This equates to taking half a million passenger cars of the road per plant. This internal calculation will be validated by an independent Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

Why has Avantium developed Ray TechnologyTM?

Avantium is a pioneer in developing unique renewable-chemistry innovations, with a mission to help create a fossil-free world through a circular economy.

Most of the materials and chemicals used in modern daily life – such as plastics, packaging, furniture, clothing and pharmaceuticals – are derived from oil, coal or natural gas, and are responsible for 11% of the primary global demand for oil as well as for 8% of world demand for natural gas (source: IEA July 2018).

Avantium’s innovative chemistry technologies within the polyester value chain enable the production of chemicals and materials that are based on sugars from plants instead of fossil resources. Its YXY® technology pioneered the viable production of PEF plastic.

PEF is a fully recyclable novel polymer made from plant-based feedstocks and is in many respects superior to PET.

Avantium has successfully demonstrated the YXY Technology at its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands. The second technology is the Dawn TechnologyTM that converts non-food biomass into industrial sugars and lignin in order to transition the chemicals and materials industries to non-fossil resources.

In 2018, Avantium opened the Dawn TechnologyTM pilot biorefinery in Delfzijl, the Netherlands. The third technology is the Ray TechnologyTM. Avantium’s technologies are complementary but not dependent on the other technology programs.

How is Avantium bringing Ray TechnologyTM to market?

On 7 November 2019 Avantium is opening a demonstration plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, with an annual capacity of around 10 tonnes of plant-based MEG.

The objective of the demonstration plant is to scale up the technology from lab to demonstration size, to further optimise the technology and to validate applications. Avantium also plans to collect data to execute an environmental Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) quantifying the sustainability benefits of our Ray Technology.

The end-to-end demonstration plant will cover all process steps from sugars to glycols, which will allow for the production of MEG and mono-propylene glycol (MPG) samples that are representative of the final product produced at subsequent commercial plants. In this way, the demonstration plant can act as a flywheel for commercial developments.

The demonstration plant will also produce several tonnes of plant-based MPG as a co-product. MPG is used in multiple applications in a variety of different industries, such as in unsaturated polyester resins, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food flavoring, deicing and antifreeze.

Why do we need plant-based MEG?

Today, 99% of MEG is produced from fossil-based resources, representing a value of approximately

$25 billion. Market demand for MEG is expected to grow from 28 million to 50 million tonnes in the next 20 years; a global CAGR of 3.5%i. This translates to over a million tonnes of additional MEG per year; for which roughly 60 new commercial plants around the globe will be needed.

The combination of the growing MEG demand and its strong dependence on fossil resources, provides a great opportunity for the introduction of plant-based alternatives.

Global demand for MPG is approximately 1.5-2 million tonnes per annum, with year-over-year growth of around 2-3% until 2021.

Is Ray TechnologyTM the only plant-based MEG option available?

No. Plant-based MEG alternatives are already available; indeed consumer brands like Coca-Cola use current plant-based MEG in their ‘plant bottles’. However, current processes to produce MEG from biomass are complex and uneconomical compared to fossil-based alternatives.

This has held up mass-market adoption of plant-based materials. Ray TechnologyTM removes many of the steps involved in creating plant-based MEG. This in turn reduces cost, making plant-based MEG comparable in cost and performance to existing fossil-based alternatives.

How does Avantium commercially Scale Up?

Assuming successful results from the demonstration plant, Avantium aims to open a commercial flagship plant in 2024. Additionally, Avantium will commercialize Ray TechnologyTM by licensing it to manufacturers and brands wishing to produce and use plant-based MEG.

Avantium has signed several agreements to explore partnership opportunities in bringing its Ray TechnologyTM to full-scale commercialization globally.

The Delfzijl plant-based MEG lant will serve as a demonstration facility for these potential partners. Avantium is progressing well in developing partnership opportunities throughout the value chain in order to bring the technology to full-scale global commercialization.

Potential partners around the world have already expressed interest in Ray TechnologyTM for deployment.

This varies from feedstock providers who wish to diversify their markets, chemical companies who seek to enter a significant growth market and transition to a bio-based economy and consumer brands who are looking for plant-based solutions for their textiles and packaging

How is the demonstration plant for Plant-Based MEG financed?

Avantium has funded the demonstration plant from proceeds of its IPO in March 2017 where it allocated

€15-20 million investment in our most advanced technologies. Approximately half of these proceeds are being used for Ray TechnologyTM.

Alongside this important investment decision by Avantium, in 2018 the European Innovation Council awarded Avantium’s Ray TechnologyTM an approximately €2 million grant in order to accelerate the scale-up and commercialization of innovative business opportunities.

In March 2019, Avantium received an additional €2 million grant towards constructing the Ray TechnologyTM demonstration plant from the European Regional Development Fund. This is facilitated by Partnership Northern Netherlands (Samenwerkingsverband, Noord-Nederland). The grant is intended to accelerate innovation in the quest for a low-carbon economy.

In June 2019, Avantium announced that it has been awarded €1.3 million for both Ray TechnologyTM and Dawn TechnologyTM from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

This commits Avantium to participate in the VEHICLE consortium whose members aim to widen the business and market opportunities of existing and future biorefineries by demonstrating the applicability of their sugar streams in several downstream options.

In August 2019, Avantium was awarded €6 million as part of a SPIRE grant to accelerate its Dawn TechnologyTM and Ray TechnologyTM in addition to utilizing its expertise in Catalysis. SPIRE, part of Horizon2020, is the European subsidy programme to facilitate the region’s Sustainable Process Industry.

Avantium participates in a 4-year research programme entitled IMPRESS, which aims to demonstrate a new biorefinery concept based on integrating novel processes such as Avantium’s Dawn and Ray Technologies for the first time.

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