Neste recently announced a world-first in the bio-based polymer industry, jointly announcing the first parallel production of bio-based polypropylene and bio-based low-density polyethylene at commercial scale.
As increased awareness of climate change and plastic pollution continue to grow, bio-based polymers are gaining increased prominence in the minds of consumers. However, the range of bio-based alternatives to the main plastics we encounter in our daily lives continues to limit its potential adoption. Key to accelerating the switch from petrochemical to bio-based plastics is going to be a larger diversity of materials, including commodity polyolefins such as polypropylene and polyethylene.
LyondellBasell, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies globally, in partnership with Finland-based energy company Neste recently announced a world-first in the bio-based polymer industry, jointly announcing the first parallel production of bio-based polypropylene and bio-based low-density polyethylene at commercial scale.
This venture leverages Neste’s experience in renewable hydrocarbons derived from sustainable bio-based raw materials, as well as LyondellBasell’s technical capabilities in large scale chemical production. An initial production run has successfully resulted in the production of several thousand tonnes approved for use in food packaging. The polymer itself is marketed under the brand name Circulen, and has been added to LyondellBasell’s circular economy product line. An independent third party tested the polymer products using carbon tracers and confirmed they contained over 30% renewable content.
Richard Roudeix, LyondellBasell Senior Vice President of Olefins and Polyolefins for Europe, Asia and International, said: “LyondellBasell has an innovative spirit that spans decades, and an achievement like this showcases concrete actions we are taking in support of a circular economy…Through the use of renewable resources, we are contributing to the fight against climate change and helping our customers achieve their environmental targets.”
Peter Vanacker is Neste’s President and CEO. Vanacker said: “We are excited to enable the plastics industry to introduce more bio-based material into its offering. It is very satisfying to see Neste’s renewable hydrocarbons performing perfectly in a commercial scale production of bio-based polymers, providing a drop-in replacement option to fossil material…This pioneering collaboration with LyondellBasell marks a major milestone in the commercialization of Neste’s renewable polymers and chemicals business focusing on developing renewable and circular solutions for forward-looking sustainable brands.”
In 2018, Neste partnered with IKEA to pilot commercial-scale production of biobased polypropylene to help IKEA realise its goal of fully substituting the plastics used in its products with recycled or renewable materials by 2030.
With the industrial production of bio-based polypropylene, IDTechEx projects that the market size for bio-based polymers will be 2.7 Mt by 2023. Bio-based polyolefins look set to benefit from a CAGR three to four times as large as their petrochemical equivalents, as consumers increasingly become aware of the benefits of using bio-based alternatives.
Find out more about bio-based polymers with IDTechEx’s report “Biobased Polymers 2018-2023: A Technology and Market Perspective“.