Avantium advancing biotechnology with new European demonstration plant

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Photo by Unilever The new plant will use Avantium's Mekong technology to convert renewable sugars into bio-based MEG

Amsterdam-headquartered bio-based materials company, Avantium NV, has announced plans for the construction of a new demonstration plant that will help advance the production of bio-based mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) made directly from renewable sugars. 

The new plant will use Avantium’s pioneering Mekong technology to convert renewable sugars into bio-based MEG, the Dutch firm announced 12 June.

Part of a previously disclosed €15-20m investment in advanced technologies, the plant is expected to be operational in 2019, employing up to 20 people.

MEG is a component for making everyday consumer goods, such as PET and PEF plastics and polyester textiles.

According to Avantium, today, more than 99% of MEG is produced from fossil resources and the market demand for the material is expected to grow from 28 million to 50 million tonnes in the next 20 years.

In a statement provided to PNE, Avantium said the location of the plant is yet to be revealed.

“We are evaluating the merits of two sites before we make a final decision,” said a company spokesman. 

According to the company, construction begins at an “offsite location”. 

“We do this in order to control environmental conditions for complex chemistry and to protect the intellectual property of the technology.  The plant will be delivered fully assembled to the chosen location,” he said, adding that completion was expected in the second half of 2019.

“Our novel single-step process can finally fulfil this demand in an environmentally sustainable manner that both consumers and leading brands have been seeking,” said Tom van Aken, chief executive officer of Avantium.

The demonstration plant will aim to scale up the bio-MEG technology, validate the technical and economic feasibility of the process, and to collect data to execute an environmental life-cycle analysis (LCA) quantifying the sustainability benefits of the Avantium technology.   

“This is a major step forward in the development of our Mekong technology,” said Zanna McFerson, chief business development officer of Avantium.

The demonstration plant will replicate commercial-scale conditions of producing cost-effective bio-MEG; said McFerson, adding the company was exploring partnership opportunities in bringing this technology to full-scale commercialisation.

Avantium also said that the European Innovation Council had selected its Mekong technology as part of a €146m investment in “top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and scientists with bright ideas and the ambition to scale up internationally.” 

In parallel to the new plant, Avantium said it was also nearing completion of a biorefinery pilot plant for its Zambezi technology. The technology produces high-purity glucose and lignin from non-food biomass. This biorefinery is located in Delfzijl, the Netherlands.

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