Engineering News

Mitsubishi To Use Plant Resins for Plastics
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. plans to mass-produce synthetic resins made from plant extract, seeking to reduce its dependence on petroleum, with output slated to begin as early as fiscal 2010, The Nikkei reported in its Friday morning edition.

Plant resins are expensive, impeding its competitiveness against petroleum products such as naphtha. But as long as crude oil prices stay around or above $100 a barrel, plant-based resins will fare well, the Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. (4188.TO) unit has concluded.

Biodegradable plastics consist 60% of succinic acid, which is usually produced from naphtha. But Mitsubishi Chemical will switch to a method in which succinic acid is gleaned from sugars contained in such staples as potatoes and corn.

Spending several billion yen, the firm will set up production lines for plant-based plastics at its Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, factory as early as fiscal 2010. The annual output capacity will initially be 10,000 tons, but is expected to increase to 100,000 tons by fiscal 2015, the same production level as for commodity-grade resins. The firm will also seek to use plants, such as rice straw, to manufacture the other 40% of the raw materials for resins.

In addition, Mitsubishi Chemical plans to establish technology to mass-produce polycarbonate from plant starch. Investing roughly Y1 billion, it will set up a test production line at a plant in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, in fiscal 2009, with an eye toward to commercialization in or after fiscal 2010.

Mitsui Chemicals Inc. (4183.TO) has also begun developing technology for making resins from wood and rice straw, teaming up with 11 entities, including Singapore's governmental laboratory. It aims to mass-produce plant resins by fiscal 2015. The goal is to make 300-400 liters of ethanol, the key raw material, from 1 ton of wood.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires

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