Meredian, Inc. yesterday held a grand opening event for its polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) biopolymers plant in Bainbridge, Georgia which it is describing as the largest PHA production facility in the world.
A pilot plant on the site produces 13,600 metric tons per year of PHA. Construction is beginning at the site for a plant that will produce 91,000 metric tons per year of PHA.
The new production facility puts Meridian in a clear leadership position in global PHA since ADM and Metabolix closed the Telles plant in Iowa earlier this year that had a capacity to produce 50,000 metric tons per year of PHA.
Tianjin Green Bioscience and DSM operate a 10,000 metric ton per year PHA plant in China. Tianan Biologic Material Co. is boosting its capacity in China to 10,000 metric tons per year. About a dozen other companies operate lab or pilot scale PHA facilities.
“Our PHA resins will be made using a technology Meredian acquired from P&G in 2007,” says Blake Lindsey, president and co-founder of Meredian. “We have spent the last three years confirming production systems and efficiencies while jointly developing specific end-use applications with our strategic customer partners.”
As a result of production expertise, Meridian says it will sell PHA for prices competitive to other plastics used in packaging. Telles Mirel was priced at $2.50 per pound and had weak market penetration.
Meredian PHA expects food contact OK status for its PHA products and is certified by leading third-party firms for meeting ASTM biodegradation requirements including marine water conditions. Meredian supports its technology with a global patent portfolio of over 150 patents.
“The Meredian fermentation process utilizes sustainably produced renewable plant derived feedstocks to create PHA,” added Lindsey.
Funding for Meridian’s PHA project is coming from a combination of individual investors, strategic customer partners and U.S. Government-supported loan programs for businesses, bringing jobs to rural America such as those offered by the USDA-Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Treasury-New Market Tax Credit programs.
Meredan’s plan is to build three 91,000 metric ton per year plants.
The technology being used by Meridan, called Nodax by P&G, uses plant-based fatty acids to create PHA through fermentation. P&G had reported on significant promise for blending PHA with another bioplastic, polylactic acid. A 10% loading of Nodax boosted toughness of PLA fourfold.
Nodax is a family of copolymers with a chemical structure resembling linear low-density polyethylene. It has some physical properties similar to polyesters.
P&G had planned a commercial scale up in 2006 with Kaneka Corp. of Osaka, Japan, which still holds intellectual property for the technology. It’s not clear why P&G decided to sell Nodax. Meredian is behind schedule on its scale up plan.
The bacteria used in the fermentation process are genetically modified organisms.