PHB Industrial seeking partner for biopolymer production

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brazilian company PHB Industrial is looking for a partner to produce its Biocycle biopolymer on an industrial scale, the company's development engineer Roberto Vianna Nonato said at a petrochemical seminar in Sao Paulo.

Biocycle is obtained from the fermentation of sucrose, which is transformed into polyhidroxybutyrate (PHB), a polymer that belongs to the polyester resins family.

The company currently produces 50t/y of the 100% biodegradable biopolymer at a pilot plant in Serrana, Sao Paulo state, but plans to build a new plant with an aim to increase output to 100,000t/y. Current production is supplied to companies developing applications for the resin.

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Since 2004, PHB Industrial has been in a position to start its industrial scale Biocycle project and had previously considered going it alone; however, the firm now favors partnering with a petrochemicals company that has market knowledge and ties to the plastics manufacturing industry, Nonato said.

PHB Industrial is also responsible for the technology transfer to process Biocycle, as its properties are different from conventional polymers.

The new plant, which is forecast to start up no sooner than 2014, will have an initial capacity of 30,000-50,000t/y, with an eventual goal of 100,000t/y.

PHB Industrial is focused on using natural pigments and additives in order to retain the product's biodegradability characteristic. "Biocycle could easily be blended with other resins, but it would no longer be biodegradable," Nonato said.

The first developments of Biocycle started in 1992 and the pilot plant was built in 1995. However, it was only after 2000 that company improved its production processes sufficiently to obtain an economically viable product and increase capacity with a view to industrial scale.

Biocycle's main applications are in the production of disposable plastics and in injection, extrusion and thermoforming production processes.