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Sulzer, TechnipFMC and Futerro form bioplastics initiative focused on PLA

By Mary Page Bailey |

Sulzer Ltd. (Winterhur, Switzerland; www.sulzer.com), TechnipFMC (Houston; www.technipfmc.com) and Futerro (www.futerro.com) have formed the PLAnet initiative in equal partnership to promote the production of sustainable plastics made of Poly-Lactic Acid (PLA). The strategic collaboration will support manufacturers interested in entering the bioplastic market by delivering integrated PLA technology packages.

PLA is a versatile bio-based and biodegradable polymer that can replace petroleum-based plastics in a wide range of applications. Different stages are required to convert sugars from crops into lactic acid, lactide and subsequently PLA.

Futerro, a well-established technology provider for lactic acid and lactide production, and Sulzer Chemtech, a leading specialist in separation and mixing technologies, have over 25 years of experience in lactic acid and PLA’s related processes. Together, they have further shown their commitment to facilitate the production of bioplastics by establishing a partnership with TechnipFMC, a leading global EPC contractor with experience in technology development and licensing with fast growing activities in bioplastics and green chemicals.

The agreement between the three parties offers to agricultural, chemical and fiber industries, a fully integrated package addressing the whole PLA value chain. In this way, customers can benefit from direct access to state-of-the-art, customizable solutions for all the aspects and stages of PLA production. PLAnet offers the possibility of a “one-stop shop” for customers interested in PLA production by providing a single point of contact and responsibility.

In particular, PLAnet supports the construction of plants of any size, including PLA facilities with a throughput of up to 100,000 tons per year – which permits manufacturers to save both capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenses (OPEX) by providing for integrated and optimized plant section design.

Within the PLAnet partnership, Futerro’s proprietary technology focuses on the production of lactic acid and raw lactide from sugar or, directly, from biomass; Sulzer contributes the process for the purification of lactide and its polymerization to obtain PLA while TechnipFMC acts as technology integrator to deliver seamless and optimized Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) packages.

PLA capacity is growing worldwide — recently, Total and Corbion jointly started up a world-scale PLA bioplastics plant in Thailand.

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