The quest for cost-competitive bio-MEG sources continues

With crude oil prices hovering at around $50/bbl for the past 2-3 years, the market for bioethanol-based monoethylene glycol (MEG) continues on a rocky road as its premiums over petro-based MEG prices remain at more than 20%. The production cost of bio-ethylene is between 1.1-2.3x higher than the global average petrochemical ethylene. Bio-ethylene is even less advantaged today given the fall in the cost of naphtha as well as the ongoing low cost of ethane in the Middle East and the US. In some cases, the premium of bioethanol-based MEG sits at around 30-40% higher over petro-MEG.

At the recently held Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) in Sapporo, Japan, Tecnon OrbiChem gave a presentation on the current situation in the Bio-MEG market, noting, on the slide below, that even the most competitive bio-ethylene production costs coming from Brazil and India have not been able to overtake petro-ethylene prices since crude oil prices started falling in 2014. This figure indicates that, while bio-ethylene could be produced more cheaply from certain bio-materials (i.e. sugar) in certain countries (e.g. Brazil, India) than petro-materials before the crude oil collapse, by December 2014 that advantage had been lost. It could take several years before crude oil prices have recovered to the point that bio-ethylene becomes economically viable again — except for applications where a premium price for ethylene derivatives is acceptable.

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Tecnon OrbiChem’s Bio-Materials and Intermediates Chemical Business Focus is a ground-breaking monthly newsletter service, which was launched in September 2013.
The service offers a detailed and comprehensive coverage of markets, prices and developments for bio-based chemicals and bio-polymers, alongside that for their petrochemical equivalents. It also covers oleochemicals in the same report.

Product areas covered monthly, along with price assessments where available, include:

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Handbook of Commercial Bio-based Chemicals
Each month in Bio-Materials and Intermediates Chemical Business Focus,  in addition to the news items and reviews of developments, there is a Chemical Profile, which offers a comprehensive yet compact summary of the market for a particular chemical – in both its petrochemical and bio-chemical forms. We have now combined the profiles we have compiled over the past three years into a Handbook, which contains reviews of the research and development that is taking place for the chemicals listed below.

This is an essential compendium of successful and close-to-successful bio-based materials. Tecnon OrbiChem hopes that it will become an essential companion to the researcher looking for concrete examples of successful bio-innovation, and an inspiration to the forward-looking entrepreneurs seeking to help society prepare for a sustainable way of life.

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