By ANDREW NOEL
DuPont and Tate & Lyle, allied in a venture to produce
chemicals from corn glucose rather than oil, are considering
a second biochemical plant, unperturbed by the shale and petrochemical
boom in the US.
The leadership team, assisted by outside advisers, is
preparing plans to increase output of bio-propanediol for
products from carpets to cosmetics when the time is right,
Todd Sutton, head of the venture, said in an interview at the
In-Cosmetics trade fair in Hamburg, Germany.
Theres certainly a frenzy on the petrochemical
side but it
hasnt dented us, said Sutton. The
biomaterials world is still heating up. Even if its
delayed a couple of years the bottom line is were still
going to run out of natural gas.
The current increase in crude oil prices caused by the
Ukraine crisis could generate additional interest in
sustainably produced materials that are not derived from petrochemicals
, Sutton said. The
partnership, established in 2004, teamed DuPonts
heritage in polymers with Tates history of fermenting
and processing industrial corn into animal feed, oil and
starch for fizzy drinks.
Production of bio-based propanediol uses about 40 percent
less energy than its petroleum-based counterpart, according
to the joint venture.
A first $100 million biochemical plant in Loudon, Tennessee,
started commercial operations in 2006, siphoning off the
dextrose it needs from Tates adjacent facility to
minimize the cost of trucking-in raw materials.
One option is to expand the Loudon facility, another is an
additional plant in a region such as southeast Asia, where
the crops can be grown and the glucose fermented, Sutton
We would like to have a plan in the next 12
months, said Sutton. You can do the work early,
theres no penalty for that.
Most of the 100 million-pound-volume output from the existing
site is taken by Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont for
materials including the Sorona brand used in carpets and
wrinkle-free trousers. The introduction of new offerings and
the search for external customers has taken the venture into
markets from cosmetic ingredients and polyurethanes to
aircraft de-icers and flavorings.
DuPont, which acquired enzyme maker Danisco A/S for about
$7.1 billion in 2011, is moving away from the traditional
chemicals and coatings that were the mainstay of the
BASF, the worlds biggest chemical company, has so far
taken a more conservative approach to biochemicals, making
incremental steps into renewable materials. Emeryville,
California-based Amyris announced this week it will
collaborate with BASF to explore biotechnology
manufacturing chemicals. Financial terms of the agreement
DuPont and Tate view the joint their project
like venture capitalists,
Theres no honeymoon any more, Sutton said.
Weve got the business to a place thats very
solid. Some of this isnt as sexy as it was in the
beginning, now youre looking for half a cent here and
how can you squeeze more out of the energy that youre