THAILAND: PTT Chemical moves into bio-based plastics

PTT Chemical is spreading its wings into bio-based plastics production through an equity participation in US-based Myriant Technologies.

The US$60-million (Bt1.86 billion) investment was announced yesterday (24 Jan. 2011).

The US company is raising funds to finance a medium-scale plant in Louisiana for the production of bio-succinic acid with an annual capacity of 14,000 tonnes. The plant is expected to prove the successful commercialisation of the technology.

The investment has convinced PTT Chemical president and chief executive officer Veerasak Kositpaisal of the bright future for bio-succinic acid, and it is possible that a similar plant will be established in Thailand.

"This is our first step into bio-based technology. PTT Chemical will be the owner of the technology once the technology is proved successful. We can use the technology to establish a plant in Thailand as well, as we have plenty of agricultural raw materials like tapioca or maize for bio-based chemical production," he said.

Stephen J Gatto, chairman and CEO of Myriant Technologies, said the company had researched bio-succinic acid for three years and was now studying establishment of a medium-scale plant. It expects to take 19 months to complete the study.

The company will research many raw materials, such as waste from industrial production, some of which is non-food material. Bio-succinic acid can be used to make many products, such as in the paint and automotive industries.

Veerasak said PTT Chemical eyed an annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes for the commercial plant, for which it would have to put in additional investment.

"It is also possible PTT Chemical will invest in other kinds of bio-based chemicals soon. We target investing in our first plant in this kind of technology within the next five years," he added.

Myriant Technologies expects the collaboration with PTT Chemical to create good business for the two companies soon, Gatto said, adding: "Thailand has a lot of raw material as feedstock for bio-based chemicals. If PTT Chemical invests in the project, we will invest with it."

Myriant Technologies is one of the leading biotechnology developers in the United States. It has been supported by a research and development budget of $60 million from the US government to study renewable biochemicals.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)