Lux Research: Biobased materials, chemicals capacity to increase

By Lux Research | January 22, 2015

Led by growth in the U.S. and Brazil, the global capacity to produce bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) from emerging technologies will rise to over 7.4 million metric tons in 2018, more than tripling from 2008 levels, according to Lux Research.

“Strong growth is likely in North America, with 17 BBMC facilities set to come online, many driven by emerging technology like Elevance Renewable Sciences’ metathesis technology and Butamax Advanced Biofuels’ retrofit for the production of isobutanol,” said Andrew Soare, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Capacity Growth and Trends of Emerging Bio-based Material and Chemical Technologies.”

“Some of the planned facilities – like those of Butamax – plan to retrofit existing ethanol facilities, a move that is likely to accelerate in the coming years,” he added.

Lux Research analysts used Lux's BBMC Tracker, a comprehensive database of over 200 production facilities globally, and conducted hundreds of interviews with leading innovators and producers to estimate capacity growth. Among their findings:

- Lignocellulosics will be fastest-growing feedstock. Sugar and starch will remain the dominant feedstocks, accounting for 58 percent of total capacity, but capacity fed by lignocellulosics, such as risk husks and corn stover, will register the fastest growth, at a whopping 85 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

- Intermediates, polymers will dominate. Intermediate chemicals such as lactic acid and monoethylene glycol, with 2.94 million metric tons, will hold a nearly 40 percent share of the total capacity. Polymers, like polylactic acid and bio-derived polyethylene, will gain a 32 percent share with 2.39 million metric tons, but bio-oils and derivatives will grow the fastest – at a 38 percent rate, crossing 1 million metric tons in capacity in 2018.

- Specialty chemicals growth will slow down. Specialty chemicals, led by ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, Dow Ecolibrium plasticizer, and farnesene, expanded rapidly from almost no capacity as late as 2010 to over 582,000 MT in 2014. However, due to the limited number of players in this space set to scale up to commercial volumes, this segment will grow slowly at just a 4 percent CAGR through 2018.

The report, titled “Capacity Growth and Trends of Emerging Bio-based Material and Chemical Technologies,” is part of the Lux Research Bio-based Materials and Chemicals Intelligence service.