PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) Plc, Thailand’s largest petrochemical producer by capacity, and US-based Cargill Incorporated have agreed to develop a biopolymer production facility worth US$600 million, or 20 billion baht, in Nakhon Sawan. The two companies have made a 50:50 investment to establish NatureWorks LLC, which specialises in polylactic acid (PLA) and biodegradable plastics from agricultural products. PLA is a compostable biopolymer which can be used in a variety of applications ranging from coffee capsules and food packaging to 3D printing filament, hygienic masks and home appliances.
NatureWorks made plans in 2012 to build a second facility outside US, but the development has progressed slowly. Eventually it decided to build the factory at Nakhon Sawan BioComplex (NBC) in Takhli district, said PTTGC chief executive and president Kongkrapan Intarajang.
PTTGC and Cargill signed an agreement to develop the facility in an online ceremony, presided over by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The new fully integrated biopolymer production facility will employ the world’s most advanced biopolymer technology and use sugar from Thai sugarcane farmers as raw materials, adding value to Thai agricultural produce.
NatureWorks will also seek a partnership to develop products that meet demand for sustainable use of materials. The project matches the government’s bio-, circular and green (BCG) economic model which promotes a wise use of resources with low impact on the environment, said Mr Kongkrapan. “Cargill is excited to take this next step with PTTGC to support the expansion of NatureWorks,” said Colleen May, president of Cargill’s Bioindustrial Group. “This marks an important milestone in our continued efforts to invest in sustainable solutions for bioindustrial customers around the world.”
The second PLA biopolymer production facility, to be operating under the Ingeo trade name, is expected to begin commercial operations in 2024.
PLA production is the second-phase development of NBC.
PTTGC’s biochemical arm Global Green Chemicals Plc is a major company in the first-phase development, which includes a sugar-cane crushing unit with a daily capacity of 24,000 tonnes; an ethanol production plant with a daily capacity of 600,000 litres; a biomass power plant with 85 megawatts of capacity; and steam generation of 475 tonnes per hour. NBC occupies a 2,000-rai plot adjacent to a sugar mill and a sugar-cane cultivation area.