Toray Industries, Inc. (headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan; President, CEO & COO: Akihiro Nikkaku; hereafter referred to as “Toray”) in partnership with Gevo, Inc. (head office: Englewood, Colorado, U.S.; CEO: Patrick R. Gruber; hereafter referred to as “Gevo”), a leading company in renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels, signed an offtake agreement for renewable bio-paraxylene(bioPX) produced at Gevo’s planned pilot plant. The agreement will enable Toray to carry out pilot-scale production of fully renewable, bio-based polyethylene terephthalate (fully bioPET), of its fibers and films for the first time in the world. Toray also plans to offer samples to its business partners, who are the end-users, in 2013 for market evaluation.
Gevo, the first company in the world to begin commercial production of bio-based isobutanol (bioIsobutanol), operates a plant that produces the product employing its highly effective proprietary production technology. Gevo has also succeeded in the synthesis of bioPX at the laboratory level utilizing conventional chemical processes. Since there is great interest in bioPET from end-users, Gevo has a plan to build a pilot plant for production of bioPX. The production of bioPET for end-users however requires a partner who is able to convert bioPX into bioPET.
Using terephthalic acid synthesized from Gevo’s bioPX and commercially available renewable mono ethylene glycol (MEG), Toray succeeded in lab-level PET polymerization to produce fibers and films samples in 2011.
With the signing of the offtake agreement between Gevo and Toray, the companies are able to integrate the supply chain to convert bioPX into bioPET for end users. Since Toray has the priority right to purchase the bioPX produced at the pilot plant, it will be able to gain a head-start in securing scale up technology for bioPET polymerization, fibers and films.
Commercially available PET is currently produced from terephthalic acid and mono-ethylene glycol (MEG), both of which are derived from petroleum. Around 50 million tons of PET is produced worldwide annually for producing fibers, films and bottles. Moreover, PET, which has outstripped other polymers such as polyethylene and polypropylene in global demand, has become an essential polymer in our daily life. Due to exhaustion of oil resources and hike of oil price, producing PET from fully renewable feedstock has become a crucial challenge. Toray has been engaged in tackling this major issue by integrating polymer chemistry, organic synthesis chemistry and biotechnology.
Under its management policy that all business strategies must place priority on the global environment in an effort to help realize a sustainable low-carbon society, Toray has been promoting the development of bio-based polymers while expanding the businesses related to bio-based materials such as poly-lactic acid (PLA). The expansion of bio-based polymers is an important initiative central to the Group’s Green Innovation projects under its new medium-term management program “Project AP-G 2013”.
Under the corporate slogan “Innovation by Chemistry”, Toray will enhance its efforts to develop advanced materials to contribute to the progress of a sustainable, recycling society.