Polylactic acid (PLA), a renewable, odourless thermoplastic polyester is a biodegradable biopolymer obtained by direct condensation of lactic acid monomers. The major end-use applications include food & beverages packaging, cosmetics packaging, agriculture, automotives, textiles, medical and other niche applications. As of 2021, NatureWorks is the largest PLA producer globally, having a capacity of 150 kilo tons in the U.S. The company is also setting up a 75 kilo tons PLA facility in Thailand to capture the fast-growing ASEAN and APAC markets. The global PLA capacity as per Prismane Consulting’s database is around 670 kilo tons in 2021. NatureWorks accounted for around 22%% of the global PLA capacity and has been exporting its Ingeo PLA resins to several countries from its facility in Nebraska, USA. Total Carbion is another key player having started its 75 kilo tons PLA facility in Thailand in 2018 and another PLA facility of 100 kilo tons being constructed in France which is expected to come online by 2024. Several capacity expansions are announced in China with a huge wave of new capacities expected during the 14th 5-year plan of China (2021-2025). The country’s shifting focus towards more sustainable products will provide a big push not only to the PLA market but the entre bioplastics / biodegradable polymers market.
Global Polylactic Acid Demand- Supply Analysis, 2016-2032 (Kilo Tons)
The global production capacity in 2021 was about 670 kilo tons, with global demand of 428 kilo tons. The global capacity utilization rate in 2021 was around 64%, which have varied between 60% - 80% between 2015 and 2021. The double-digit growth in China and global acceptance of biopolymers has led to an increase in demand and eventually the operating rates. However, with several capacities announced in China, the global PLA plant operating rates are forecast to decline. With the recent announcement by the U.S. Government of displacing 90% of petroleum-based plastics with recyclable-by-design bio-based polymers over the next 20 years in the U.S. new PLA and bioplastic capacities can be expected in the long-term forecast.
The global PLA industry has witnessed several industrial collaborations for technology transfer and commercialization. Amongst some of the investments announced in Asia-Pacific, Total Corbion and Konspec JV has signed an agreement to produce completely biodegradable and compostable plastics in India. The plant will import PLA from Total Corbion Rayong PLA plant in Thailand and provide rigid and flexible packaging containers and biodegradable alternatives to plastics. Moreover, to curb plastic pollution and support the single-use-plastics ban initiative in India, Praj Industries has recently announced that they are planning to setup a demo Polylactic Acid (PLA) plant in at Jejuri in Pune, Maharashtra. The company has developed technology to produce PLA as a part of its Bio-PrismTM portfolio.
PLA capacity addition announcements
- LG Chem signed joint development agreement with ADM to produce lactic acid and polylactic acid in the US with installed capacity of around 150 kilo tons of lactic acid and 75 kilo tons of PLA to cater the growing demand of biobased products in the region.
- NatureWorks is planning to expand its PLA biopolymer production capacity by 10% at Nebraska, USA . The PLA capacity expansion is estimated to come online by the end of 2021. The PLA capacity expansion will cater the 3D printing, nonwoven hygienic masks, compostable coffee, tea bags, coated paper and food service ware market.
- In January, Futerro, a Belgian Company announced to build a fully integrated production facility of PLA with production capacity of 75 kilo tons per year in Normandy, France.
- Total Corbion PLA announced in 2020 that it will build a bio-based PLA facility of production capacity 100 kilo tons per annum at Grandpuits, France. The facility is estimated to come online by 2024 to cater the growing demand of PLA resins in Europe.
- Bio Valore World built a new production facility of PLA biopolymer in Termoli, Italy based on Sulzer Technology with production capacity of 5 kilo tons per annum of PLA and 12 kilo tons per annum of PLA based compounds. The plant commenced production of PLA in the first half of October 2021.
- Natural Materials, Russian Company LLC and Suzler, a Swizz Company signed an agreement in 2021 to build a PLA production facility of production capacity 10 kilo tons per annum in Dubna, Russia. The production is expected to commission in the coming years.
- The new manufacturing facility of NatureWorks with production capacity of 75 kilo tons of Ingeo Biopolymer (PLA) is estimated to complete its construction in Nakhon Sawan Porvince, Thailand by second half of 2024. After completion of construction, Lactic acid, lactide and polymer will be produced at the new facility.
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