Toray Produces Renewable PET Fiber

Toray Industries says it has produced laboratory-scale samples of 100% biobased polyethylene terepthalate (PET) fibers. The company, which says it is the first to reach this milestone, used para-xylene that partner Gevo (Englewood, CO) derived from isobutanol, and commercially-available monoethylene glycol (MEG). The news closely follows Toray’s June announcement that it had produced 100% renewable PET resin, again using p-xylene produced by Gevo.

PET that is partially renewable is already being produced on a large scale; Coca-Cola sold 2.5 billion PET bottles in 2010 that were made with sugarcane-derived MEG, which makes up 30% of PET, and hopes to use completely plant-based PET by 2020.  Purified terepthalanic acid (PTA), produced from p-xylene and oxygen, makes up the other 70% of PET, but has not been produced renewably at large scale.

So far, only a few firms have announced they are pursuing biobased p-xylene. Gevo expects to begin commercial-scale isobutanol production next year at two retrofitted ethanol plants, and its agreement with Toray includes a supply contract for p-xylene sometime in 2012 or thereafter.

Virent Energy Systems (Madison, WI) unveiled a biobased p-xylene process in June. The company operates a 10,000 gallon/year demonstration plant at Madison, and is in talks with potential partners about a larger-scale unit. It hopes to have commercial-scale production by the end of  2014.

PepsiCo announced in March that it had developed the world’s first 100% renewable PET bottle, but did not disclose where it was getting either its MEG or p-xylene. [I suspect Gevo, since the company’s results for the first ended March 31, 2011 noted it had provided sample volumes of biobased p-xylene to multiple “international brand owners” for the production of a 100% plant-based bottle made from PET]

Toray says the success of this trial, “albeit under laboratory conditions,” is proof that polyester fiber can be industrially produced from fully renewable biomass feedstock alone.


One thought on “Toray Produces Renewable PET Fiber

  1. Pingback: There’s a Great Future in (Bio)plastics. Think About It. | CW Renewables

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