Polyolefins are the most frequently used plastics. There are two types of polyolefins: polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). These polyolefins are known by the fact that their density is less than 1gm/cm3, which allows polyolefins to float on water. Polypropylene and polyethylene can be manufactured from renewable resources. In 2010, Braskem developed a 100% bio-based plastics equivalent to HDPE, which revolutionized the bio-plastics industry. Development of bio-based polyolefins was driven by its renewable resource content and not compostability. Polyolefins are derived from sugarcane ethanol. Bio-based polyolefins are chemically equivalent to their petroleum-based counterparts; therefore, they can be employed for the same applications.
Braskem currently has a capacity of nearly 200 kilotons capacity in Brazil. However, in 2015, the company declared it will not be following its Green PP initiative. The company also announced that it will not be investing any additional effort into bio-ethylene. Dow Chemical and Mitsui Chemicals have also postponed the US$1.5 Bn project in Brazil to manufacture PE from sugarcane. These projects are expected to produce ethanol from sugarcane, which is expected to be used to manufacture 900 kilo tons of bio-based polyethylene of various grades per year. These projects were expected to be world’s largest biopolymers investments in this decade. The delay in these projects are ascribed to the concerns regarding the economics of these products. Additionally, the increasing availability of low-priced shale gas in the U.S. is expected to restrain the market in the next few years. These recent declarations regarding the project delays are anticipated to intervene or possibly inverse any near-term expansion/penetration in the bio-based polyolefins market. These factors are predicted to significantly change the growth predictions for bio-plastics during the forecast period. For bio-based polyolefins, the increasing quantity of cheap shale gas looks to be negatively affecting initiatives in the field of bio-based polyolefins.
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Bio-based Polyolefins Market: Segmentation
The bio-based polyolefins market can be segmented based on type:
- Bio-based polyethylene
- Bio-based polypropylene
Polyethylene is the simplest and most commonly used plastic. The global production capacity of polyethylene is nearly 80,000 kilo tons per year. Production of plastics using renewable resources has gained interest in the recent years. In Brazil, bio-ethanol is manufactured from sugarcane employing a fermentation process for many years. This bio-ethanol is recently being used to manufacture ethylene. This bio-ethanol is further used to produce bio-polyethylene.
Bio-based Polyolefins Market: Key market players
Key players operating in the bio-based polyolefins market are:
- NatureWorks LLC
- Mitsui Chemicals