Products made from renewable raw materials
The challenge for plant chemistry developed by the Arkema group is to respond to the shrinking supply of fossils resources and to environmental concerns by using alternative raw materials.
The foreseeable depletion of fossil resources as well as environmental imperatives is pushing the chemical industry to turn to raw materials of plant origin to produce bioplastics.
The advantage of this approach is that plants are renewable. In addition, to be able to grow, plants capture the CO2 present in the air, thereby helping to reduce the greenhouse effect. A number of manufactured products are already made from these polymers of plant origin: shoes, eye glasses, mobile telephones, automobile parts, packaging, etc.
Arkema speeds up its development in green chemistry
In 2012, Arkema bolstered its position in polyamides by the acquisition of two Chinese companies : Casda, the world leader in sebacic acid derived from castor oil, and Hipro Polymers, which produces polyamides 10 (Hiprolon® range) from sebacic acid.
Arkema also purchased in 2013 a stake in Ihsedu Agrochem, a subsidiary of Jayant Agro in India, supplier of castor oil. With its unique integration, Arkema has now an unsurpassed offering in bio-sourced polyamides.
Developing new avenues
R&D is exploring other opportunities based on other plant species with the aim of increasing the use of renewable raw materials.
Glycerol, a polyol coming from the manufacture of biofuels, and made from plants such as rapeseed, sunflowers and soybeans could replace propylene in some specific cases.
The latter is used in the manufacture of acrolein and acrylic acid, two products which have a host of applications, ranging from pharmaceutical products to animal feed and the paper industry.
Another example: additives for paving grade bitumens Cecabase® RT, developed by CECA, a subsidiary of the Arkema group. These additives contain surfactants (50% are made from raw materials of renewable origin) and have the following characteristics:
- reduction of approximately 50°C in the application temperature of bitumen,
- 20 to 50% decrease in energy consumption compared to the standard process,
- 90% reduction in dust and gas generated during the production of the bitumen mix, and then improvement of the working conditions of the field personnel.
The plants of the future are growing in cosmos
Alongside 17 European partners — businesses, agricultural institutes and universities — Arkema is participating in the COSMOS research project, supported by the European Union and launched in March 2015.
It is studying agro-industrial uses for camelina and crambe, two little-known oilseed plants.
Both contain fatty acids that are not widely found in nature and are potentially convertible into high-grade bioplastics. Other virtues include thriving in poor soils and being harvest-ready in just three months.
This means they could be cultivated as sustainable crops that don’t compete with food and reduce Europe’s reliance on imported oleochemical plant oils.