Bioenergy

Ashland and Cargill Form JV for Bio-Based Chemical

Ashland and Cargill have agreed in principle to create a new joint venture (JV) to develop and produce bio-based chemicals. The parties intend for the new stand-alone entity to become a leading global supplier of chemicals from renewable sources.

The JV’s first product will be propylene glycol (PG). Using both licensed and proprietary technology, the JV will produce high-grade propylene glycol from glycerin, an abundant co-product of biodiesel production. (PG is currently produced from propylene oxide, a petroleum-based intermediate.) While details on the name, leadership and development plans will be announced later in 2007, the JV anticipates a combined initial capital investment between $80 million to $100 million. With 50-50 ownership, Ashland and Cargill will bring to the new venture their technology and expertise in bioprocessing, as well as chemical formulation, supply chain management and market analysis. The JV expects to provide global manufacturing and marketing of the bio-based PG, starting with a 65,000 metric ton-per-year plant at a yet-to-be-finalized location in Europe. “We believe the chemical market has reached a tipping point where bio-based and petroleum-based options are both desired by the market and practical to produce. To be in a position where Ashland can offer bio-based specialty chemical products in the future, we need to help foster the creation of bio-based basic chemicals now,” said Walter Solomon, vice president and chief growth officer, Ashland Inc. According to Ashland market consultants, annual global production for PG totals more than 1.4 million metric tons, and research shows that global demand growing at a 3-percent to 7-percent rate. Laboratory tests of the proprietary production method have shown the bio-based propylene glycol product will feature a high level of purity. In testing, the process to be used by the JV is efficient and produces fewer byproducts than other alternative approaches to making renewable PG.