Cofco, a state-owned food processing company, is building a plant in Changchun, China to produce 10,000 metric tons per year of polylactic acid (PLA), arguably the most important of a large and growing range of bioplastics.
The new Cofco plant will be the first to use a new PLA production technology developed by ThyssenKrupp and subsidiary Uhde Inventa-Fischer, which has built some 450 plants to produce plastics.
About eight years ago, scientists at ThyssenKrupp began work on its own manufacturing process for PLA in conjunction with Uhde Inventa-Fischer. A pilot plant with a capacity of 500 tons per year was built in 2010 in Guben, Germany to demonstrate the process, which is called PLAneo.
Commissioning of the Chinese plant is scheduled for the first quarter of 2018. ThyssenKrupp is providing engineering, key plant components and supervision of erection and commissioning for the facility.
The biggest producer of PLA is NatureWorks, which has a nameplate capacity of 150,000 metric tons at a plant in Blair, Nebraska. Plans to build a wordscale plant in Thailand with partner PTT in Thailand are still on hold. Corbion and Total are building a plant in Thailand with a capacity of 75,000 metric tons. Nantong Jiuding Biological Engineering has a PLA production capacity of 3,000 metric tons per year in China. Zhejiang Hisun Biomaterials Co., has a 5,000 metric tons per year PLA plant in China. Corn is the most commonly used feedstock for PLA in China.
PLA demand is growing around 20 percent annually, still from a small base. Most of the current market has been created as a result of marketing efforts by NatureWorks. Half of the global capacity is expected to be based in Asia by 2022, even though demand there lags large western markets