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Trends > Going green

Anellotech signs agreement for technology to boost yield of chemical used in PET production

By Joe Whitworth , 22-Jan-2013
Last updated on 22-Jan-2013 at 13:49 GMT

Anellotech is a step closer to becoming the first commercial producer of renewable p-xylene after signing an agreement with a US university for technology which boosts yield of the chemical used in the production of plastic bottles.

The deal with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst adds a new technology to the firms’ core catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) process, enabling the amount of renewable p-xylene produced from non-food biomass to be tripled, claims the firm.

The catalytic process converts renewable biomass into feedstocks used in the production of plastics.

The technology modifies the catalyst used in the process to triple the yield of p-xylene within the benzene, toluene and xylenes stream, allowing more economical production of renewable p-xylene from non-food biomass, leading to lower-cost renewable PET.

The aim is to target polyethylene terephthalate (PET) market applications, including recyclable bottles and green fibers for carpet, clothing and other applications.

Anellotech said it is currently working on scaling up the CFP technology and bringing it to the market.

CFP enables low-cost production because all reactions occur in one single reactor, the feedstock is non-food biomass (not sugar), the complete process uses a cost-effective catalyst, and it is based on established chemical engineering processes, claim the firm.

Increasing demand

David Sudolsky, president and CEO of Anellotech, said there is increasing demand for p-xylene for making consumer products.  

“This new technology we will be developing under license from the University of Massachusetts will enable beverage manufacturers to obtain 100% renewable PET bottles made from green ethylene glycol (already on the market by others) together with Anellotech’s green p-xylene.

“We see significant potential demand from sustainability-focused products companies, among others, as consumers continue to focus on environmentally-friendly products,” he added.

“The new technology enables Anellotech to produce more p-xylene (and less o- and m-xylenes) while maintaining attractive yields of the green benzene and toluene that are themselves used to make nylon, polyurethane, polystyrene and a host of other important plastics used in a broad array of product applications.”

How it works

Professor George Huber, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his team demonstrated that by slightly decreasing the zeolite pore mouth during the CFP process, opening of the catalysts causes a 300% increase in the p-xylene selectivity.

He said: “Right now the plastics industry purchases all its feedstock from the petroleum industry. Our CFP technology will enable plastics manufacturers to purchase feedstocks from non-petroleum renewable resources.”

In June last year, FoodProductionDaily.com spoke to chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who claimed they had created a 75% yield of creating p-xylene from a biomass feedstock rather than a petroleum one.

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