Oxiteno Considering Bio-based Ethylene Glycol

I just came back from Buenos Aires, where I attended the annual petrochemical meeting put on by APLA, Latin America’s main chemical trade group. The meeting is a great place to connect with chemical executives from the region. At the event, I ran into Pedro Wongtschowski, the CEO of Brazilian energy and chemical conglomerate Ultrapar. Oxiteno, the company’s chemical arm, makes ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol, ethoxylates, and specialty chemicals. I have long wondered if the company would get involved in bio-based ethylene glycol. Since 2009, Coca Cola has been using the “Plant Bottle”, in which bio-based ethylene glycol is substituted for petroleum-derived ethylene glycol in the polymer backbone. The bio-based glycol is made from bio-based ethylene, made via the dehydration of ethanol. Coca Cola has been sourcing the ethylene glycol from a firm in India and its sugar has come from Brazil. Obviously, the supply chain would be simplified considerably with a Brazilian glycol supplier. And Oxiteno, being the country’s main ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol maker, is in attractive position for such business. So I asked Wongtschowski about this. He told me that bio-based ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol has been under active consideration. The company seems to have some options in front of it, such as whether it would feed bio-based ethylene into an existing ethylene oxide plant or build a new plant. The company also seems to be deciding on whether to construct an ethanol dehydration plant itself or buy ethylene from Braskem, which has been making polyethylene from bio-based ethylene since 2010 and recently agreed to supply bio-based ethylene to Lanxess for EPDM production. “We are talking with Braskem to determine the most attractive option for all parties involved,” he said.

Author: Alex Tullo

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