Bio-based Ethylene

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  • Ethylene is one of the most important platform chemicals in use today which is produced from petrochemical feedstock. Bio-ethylene made from bio-ethanol (from biomass) represents a chemically identical alternative to ethylene.
  • Compared to the petrochemical equivalent, the main advantages of bioethylene are that it can reduce greenhouse gas lifetime emissions (from both production and use) and the dependence of the chemical industry on fossil-fuels.
  • Bio-ethylene production based on sugarcane is estimated to save about 60% fossil energy compared to petrochemical production as the process can also produce electricity. Associated greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from cradle to factory gate are about 40% less than the petrochemical production.
  • In comparison, bio-ethylene from corn and ligno-cellulose can save less energy and GHG emissions because related processes do not export electricity. However, ligno-cellulosic bio-ethylene would be much less demanding in terms of land use.
  • The production costs of sugarcane-based bio-ethylene are very low in Brazil and India, i.e. around USD 1,200/t bio-ethylene. Chinese production based on sweet sorghum is estimated at about USD 1,700/t.
  • The first step in bioproduct creation is the collection of the biomass, which can include algae, wood pulp, biowaste, or other organic material.
  • The thermoplastic resin and petrochemical producer Braskem is poised to radically alter the intermediate biorenewable chemical market, with production starting at its new bio-based ethylene plant in Triunfo, Brazil.
  • Unigel is considering investment in a new bio-based ethylene plant as part of plans to secure competitive feedstock for its styrenics business.

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