The oleochemical company Oleon has started up a new manufacturing plant for producing bio propylene glycol (PG) from glycerin in Ertvelde, Belgium. PG is a versatile alcohol contained in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, as well as solvents and plasticizers.
The plant is the first of its type worldwide, leveraging a highly sustainable production process developed and licensed by BASF and jointly realized with Oleon. A grand opening celebration was held at the plant attracting more than 120 attendees, including local and regional government officials, BASF and Oleon leaders and Ertvelde site employees.
Historically, PG has been produced by means of hydrolysis from propylene oxide, which is obtained from crude oil. The starting material employed at the Ertvelde site is glycerin, primarily obtained from fats and oils generated as by-products of oleochemical production. As an additional benefit, the glycerin-based process used at the Ertvelde site requires fewer production steps than hydrolysis, increasing the efficiency of Oleon’s bio PG production.
BASF not only researched the glycerin-based production technology it realized with Oleon, but also supplies the chemical catalysts that are key enablers for the advanced bio PG production process.
“We’re proud to have worked with Oleon to bring this innovative production technology to market,” said Michael Baier, Vice President, Process Catalysts & Technologies with BASF’s Catalysts division. “Moving forward, using glycerin as a starting substance, bio PG production is possible in a far more sustainable way. This is a perfect example of how BASF creates chemistry for a sustainable future.”
“We do what others talk about,” said Chris Depreeuw, Managing Director of Oleon in Ertvelde. “Everybody is talking about bio and green chemistry, Oleon is already implementing new innovative technology. Thanks to the strong collaboration with BASF, we were able to realize a new process to produce propylene glycol in Ertvelde from a renewable source.”