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From bio-based feedstocks via di-acids to multiple advanced bio-based materials with a preference for polyethylene furanoate

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PEFerence (From bio-based feedstocks via di-acids to multiple advanced bio-based materials with a preference for polyethylene furanoate)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2020-08-31

The PEFerence project will establish a globally first-of-a-kind, industrial scale (5 000 tonnes/year), cost-effective 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) (diacid) biorefinery flagship plant producing bio-based chemicals for materials (such as bottles, films, Lego Bricks, polyurethanes) using also existing facilities in industrial symbiosis. The consortium aims to replace a significant part of fossil based polyesters (such as Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)), but also technologically superior packaging materials like glass and aluminum with 100 % bio-based polyesters (such as Polyethylene Furanoate (PEF)). The unique properties of PEF (excellent barrier and strength) make it a material that can be applied in areas where PET is less suitable. The initial market focus will be on applications where it can optimally leverage the superior properties of PEF. On the longer term, when FDCA is produced at large scale and technology is further matured, FDCA based polyesters are expected to penetrate further into markets which allow smaller or no price premium.

The potential significant reductions in non-renewable energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil based PET or aluminum based cans for PEF based packaging solutions will be assessed. Furthermore, PEF bottles can be recycled and used again as raw material for bottles, as well as in a cascading approach for packaging and textiles. During the project, fructose produced via an enzymatic isomerisation process from 2nd generation glucose will be assessed. The full value chain will be optimized ensuring cost-effective and environmentally sustainable raw material sourcing and production of FDCA, PEF/Bisphenol F (PBF) and polyurethane products. Finally, together with customers and brand owners (Lego, Kebony), 100% bio-based end-products will be demonstrated and validated to ensure fast market deployment.
The initial period covering the first 36 months of the project has concentrated on design of Flagship plant, first draft of Life cycle assessment (LCA), formulating PEF compounds for different end use applications, and the business & commercialization plan of YXY(R) Technology. In the plant design, the objective for the first reporting period was to start and make progress on the Basic engineering (FEED) phase. The progress made by BASF, Worley and Synvina during the reporting period is in line with the overall schedule for the FEED phase. During the first Reporting Period, the goal and scope of the LCA of FDCA and PEF polymers were set. Further, the PEF end products and their fossil-based counterparts were selected for benchmark. The first LCA results showed remarkable savings in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduced usage of fossil resources. Synvina has investigated a wide range of PEF formulations, both in-house and with partners. Different polymers & polymerisation processes have been researched, including long chain branching, lower degree of polymerization (DEG), catalyst type and recipe, impact modification, oxygen scavengers, colorants, and nucleating agents. Multiple prototypes have been developed together with converters, including small carbonated soft drink (CSD) bottles, tubes and pouches with ALPLA. FDCA and humins are being investigated for commercial uses by Henkel and Kebony respectively.
The YXY process a revolutionary catalytic process that enables the economic production of FDCA starting from a wide range of carbohydrates, including lignocellulose feedstock. A major break-through is the use of an alcoholic solvent such as ethanol or methanol for the sugar dehydration reaction. This stabilizes the hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and methoxymethyl furfural (MMF) and makes purification of all the products much easier. In addition, YXY Technologies has developed a very efficient oxidation and purification scheme resulting in a very high purity FDCA (pFDCA). The PEF resin produced using high purity FDCA contains unique properties (barrier, strength as well as glass transition temperature (Tg)) which are much better than the current commercial PET grades. Using PEF, the GHG emissions and usage of fossil resources can be reduced substantially compared to petro-based plastics and other materials.
Utilisation of humins (side product of YXY process) in wood modification agent