Speciality Chemicals Magazine MAR / APR 2023 | Page 42

Increasing biobased content today & tomorrow

Prakit Sangthonganotai of Advanced Biochemical Thailand presents the company ’ s work towards creating a fully renewable epoxy resin .

The biobased chemical sector is continuing to build on the back of a range of players from dynamic start-ups and university spin-offs to mid-sized companies . Even large chemical companies are involved in renewable chemicals and this looks likely to increase in the coming years .

From chemically identical dropin options to novel materials , the sector is constantly innovating and developing , as well as attracting considerable investment to help start-up companies reach commercial scale . From direct sales to licensing , joint ventures and acquisitions , it is buoyant even in these times of increased energy prices and supply chain challenges .
Some renewable products have always been biobased by design while others are providing new alternatives to petrochemicals . The more consumer brands prioritise reducing the carbon and environmental footprints of their products , the more the interest in biobased materials grows . While going biobased may not be the answer for all materials in all applications , using renewable materials can make a significant dent in a product ’ s environmental impact .
Biobased ECH
Even today , not all biobased chemicals are small-volume niche materials trying hard to get to scale . Advanced Biochemical Thailand ( ABT ), a subsidiary of AGC VinyThai , has been producing a biobased drop-in chemical for over ten years at a commercial scale of 120,000 tonnes / year in its plant in Map Ta Phut , Thailand .
The product is biobased epichlorohydrin ( ECH ), sold under the brand name Epinity *. ECH is mainly used as a precursor to epoxy resins with applications in protective coatings , electronic components , adhesives and advanced composite materials . Other applications include intermediate chemicals for paper and water treatment , mild surfactants in personal care , elastomers and other fine chemical applications .
Traditionally , ECH is made by a petrochemical route based on propylene . As a biobased drop-in , Epinity can be used in all existing applications for petrochemicallyderived ECH without needing to reformulate or change the manufacturing processes and without impacting either quality or performance .
Epinity is made from 100 % vegetable glycerine which is an existing by-product of other processes , such as oleochemical or biodiesel production . This built-in circularity allows ABT to produce a chemical intermediate and generate additional value .
100 % biobased resins within reach
Many biobased chemicals are still in the early stages and we believe it is important to support the development and the potential of biobased value chains to develop more sustainable products across industries . Ultimately , this will help end customers to develop more
Figure 1 - GWP of Epinity v . conventional ECH
sustainable products in response to market demand and the need to address the climate emergency .
As part of our work with academic partners on the development of biomaterials , ABT actively supports the development of Green Chemistry around the world , funding research and working closely with a number of academic institutions . Many of these focus on increasing the biobased content of coatings and epoxy resins , which represent the main market for Epinity .
For example , we work on projects to help provide alternative substances to bisphenol A ( BPA ) and to create epoxy resins with higher biobased content for a range of applications in coatings and advanced composites ; with biobased phenolics to create 100 % biobased epoxy resins for coatings in food and beverage packaging ; and biobased composite materials for sporting equipment , aeronautics and the automotive industry .