From Cologne the European bioindustry calls for a policy that encourages more biochemicals

Maternushaus, venue of the conference
Maternushaus, venue of the conference in Cologne

Three days of interesting debate with regard to the future development of bio-based materials. This was the Seventh International Conference on bio-based materials, organized by the nova-Institut from April 8 to 10 in Cologne. With the presence of some of the major European players – companies, univerties and research centers – the three days in the beautiful German city on the Rhine have been an opportunity to discuss on the progress of research on bio-based materials, the political support to the bio-based economy in Europe and in the member states and what measures are necessary to enable the Old Continent to be competitive in international markets.

Companies from the European bio-based chemicals, plastics and composite industries – such as Novamont, Corbion Purac, Succinity and Reverdia – presented and discussed their latest developments and strategies. In particular the second day was focused on the bio-based succinic acid. Succinic acid is used as an intermediate chemical for a wide range of applications such as industrial, food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Until now, common source of succinic acid at industrial level was fossil fuel. However, petroleum based succinic acid shows significant carbon footprint during manufacturing process. This concern is now taken care with the development process of bio-based succinic acid from agricultural feedstock.

“The potential for bio-succinic acid market is in the replacement of existing succinic acid and adoption in newer industrial application areas, namely, 1,4-butanediol (BDO), PBS, polyesterpolyols (polyurethane), alkyd resins and plasticizers. These factors together will provide faster growth thrust to the market,” according to Sarah Clark, Allied Market Research at Research and Markets, the Irish leading source for international market research.

“Presently, price of bio-succinic acid may hinder market growth as it costs higher than petroleum based succinic acid. However, mass production and improvement in production techniques will quickly address the cost viability issue of the bio-succinic acid market,” adds Clark. Moreover, lower volatility of feedstock prices will add to its stable adoption in various application segments. Bio-succinic acid is currently being adopted the most in non-industrial applications such as food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. However, BDO is one of the major application segments of bio-succinic acid in terms of volume as well as revenue. This is mainly due to higher application of BDO as an intermediate chemical in production of THF (tetrahydrofuran), PBT (polybutylene terephtalate), and polyurethanes. Additionally, the larger volume of bio-succinic acid consumed as compared to maleic anhydride for production of BDO will also be the contributory to the growth of bio-succinic acid market. According to Research and Markets, the global bio-succinic acid market volume is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 45.6% between 2013 and 2020 and expected to reach 710 Kilo Tons with Corresponding Revenue of $1.1 billion globally in 2020.

Michael Carus, managing director of the nova-Institut presented a comprehensive analysis of hurdles carried out by its company that shows that the RED (Renewable Energy Directive) is one of the main causes of the longstanding and systematic discrimination between material and energy uses. “The RED hinders the development of material use and therefore that of the whole bio-based economy. Unfavorable framework conditions combined with high biomass prices and uncertain biomass supplies deter investors from putting money into bio-based chemistry and plastics – even though these would produce higher value and greater resource efficiency”. His message? Europe needs a policy that encourages less biofuels and more bio-chemicals.


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