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December 19, 2007

Kureha to produce PGA in West Virginia

The investment for the plant is more than $100 million

Gerald Ondrey

Kureha Corp. (Tokyo, Japan; ) says it will invest more than $100 million to build a plant in Belle, W.Va., which will produce and sell the high-performance polymer, polyglycolic acid (PGA).
Construction of the production facility, which will be at the DuPont site, is expected to start in early 2008 with polymer production to begin in early 2010. The first phase of construction will create approximately 50 new jobs and generate more than $100 million in economic impact.

PGA is a high-strength polyester resin that offers a high gas barrier to carbon dioxide and oxygen with controllable hydrolysis. This unique combination of properties makes PGA ideally suited for high-performance packaging and industrial applications.

The targeted application for PGA is multi-layer PET bottles for carbonated soft drinks and beer. Because PGA offers a gas barrier 100 times greater than that of PET, it is possible to reduce the amount of PET used in these bottles by more than 20%, while maintaining the equivalent barrier against CO2 loss. This bottle redesign has the potential of yielding cost reduction as well as source reduction opportunities in the marketplace.

PGA is highly compatible with widely practiced industrial PET recycling processes and its multi-layer designs have been shown to enhance the gas and moisture barrier of bio-based polymers.  Through expanded use in biodegradable applications, PGA will further contribute to environmental conservation. In addition, Kureha is working to commercialize industrial applications that utilize the easily controllable hydrolysis rate and excellent mechanical strength of PGA.

For many years there has been no high-volume, cost-effective manufacturing process for PGA, so its production has been limited to relatively small-scale operations for the manufacture of surgical sutures. Kureha is the first and only company to successfully develop technology to produce large volumes of PGA.

In 2002, a 100-ton pilot plant was built at Kureha's Iwaki Factory in Japan, and from then on Kureha has been vigorously developing applications suitable for PGA.

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