Furandicarboxylic acid or FDCA is an oxidized furan derivative and is a highly stable compound. Owing to its potential of being used as a substitute to a wide variety of petrochemicals such as adipic acid and terephthalic acid, there has been extensive R&D over the past decade. FDCA was classified by the US Department of Energy as one of 12 priority chemicals for establishing the “green” chemistry industry of the future. Until today, FDCA was never commercialized in industrial volumes as the production process was not economically viable. The key concern for economic production of FDCA is the instability of the intermediate needed for the production of FDCA - 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). The synthesis of 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid is much easier than the synthesis of HMF, where the main problems are the need for expensive catalysts, the need for high pressure, decomposition of HMF to levulinic and formic acid, separation of DMSO and toxicity of byproducts if DMSO if used as a solvent. FDCA currently supplied is used for the scientific purpose, and the supply is customized based on client requirement.
Economic production of FDCA is expected lead to a huge demand for bio-based FDCA as it has the potential to replace a large number of petrol based chemicals and also bio-based intermediates such as levulinic acid and succinic acid. The properties of FDCA result in the superior end product and lesser by products. Avantium recently announced it had developed an economic way to manufacture FDCA from sugar. However, the availability of raw material would be a key matter of concern over the next six years. The mass production of FDCA has to be served by huge feedstock input which would make the raw material suppliers a key part of the market. Cargill is one of the largest suppliers of bio-based raw materials such as sugar. Avantium has collaborated with Cargill for the supply of starch-based feedstock to run their pilot plant.
The report is based on the market potential for FDCA over the next six years taking into account the economic production of FDCA by Avantium post commercialization in 2016. There can also be other potential producers, as several patents in the area of HMF, and FDCA synthesis was filed in the past few years. E.g. the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has developed a method for selective dehydration of carbohydrates to produce furan derivatives (mainly HMF) with high yields in a separation friendly solvent. Despite this and other patents available in this area, no other than Avantium published agreements on commercialization were done yet.
The potential application segments covered in the report include PET, polyamides, polycarbonates, plasticizers and polyester polyols. The use of FDCA in the production of PET is expected to have highest market potential by 2020, accounting for over 60% of global FDCA consumption. Since PET is used is food and packaging industry, there is key interest in the development of bio-based PET. With the replacement of terephthalic acid by FDCA and by using of renewable EG, a 100% renewable polyester, such as 2,5-furandicarboxylate (PEF) can be produced which can be used as a substitute to PET. The other important application of FDCA is expected to be polyamides. The segment is expected to account for over 15% of FDCA consumption in 2013. FDCA is expected to gain importance in the development of novel property bio products. Plasticizers is another key application segment due to the need for a substitute for phthalate-based plasticizers, and FDCA esters can be an ideal replacement.
FDCA potential application volume share, 2020
As of 2013, there are very few companies that manufactured and sold FDCA on demand due to the lack of economic viability. The main current producers of FDCA are Synbias, V & V Pharma Industries, Carbone Scientific Tokyo Chemical Industry and Chemsky. However, Aventium has announced a new technology involving a reactive separation technology and catalyst which would result in the economic production of FDCA at USD 1000 per ton from 2016. The company is currently running a pilot plant with a 40 ton per annum capacity in Geelen. The company plans to start industrial production in 2016 with a capacity between 30,000 to 50,000 tons per annum. The real commercialization is planned for 2018 with a capacity exceeding 300,000 tons per annum.
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