Pledge to forge biochemical hub

Pledge to forge biochemical hub

Bid to add value to biofuels by using them as feedstocks

From left Mr Kittiphong, Mr Sanchai and Mrs Arawadee share their optimism on biochemical production in Thailand at a webinar.
From left Mr Kittiphong, Mr Sanchai and Mrs Arawadee share their optimism on biochemical production in Thailand at a webinar.

PTT Plc and Bangchak Corporation Plc have vowed to help Thailand become a regional production base for high-value biochemical products in the post-pandemic period.

Thailand wants to add value to biofuels by using them as feedstocks for the biochemical industry, which requires them to produce a range of products from food and medicine to personal care products such as cosmetics.

Though the country became a major biofuel producer in the region when global oil prices soared above US$90 per barrel over two decades ago, biofuel prices have been less competitive than those of refined oil since 2014.

The main biofuels produced in Thailand are ethanol, which is made from cassava and sugar, and methyl ester, which is made from palm oil.

There is currently an oversupply of both.

"PTT Group has seen an opportunity to add value to biofuels for a long time as they can be upgraded to create materials that can fetch prices 40 times as high [as the raw material]," said Arawadee Photisaro, PTT senior executive vice-president for corporate strategy, referring to the use of feedstocks in the pharmaceutical industry.

She was sharing her views during a webinar co-organised yesterday by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Bangkok Post and Post Today.

PTT Group formed a joint venture with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation in 2011 to establish a polybutylene succinate (PBS) production plant in Rayong, with a capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year.

PBS is a biodegradable plastic mainly used in the packaging industry for foods and cosmetic products.

BBGI Co, the biotech business arm of Bangchak Corp, also entered the high-value bio-based segment through the 800-million-baht share acquisition in US-based Manus Bio, a leading global biotechnology manufacturer.

The move followed Bangchak's announcement of its venture into synthetic biology, or synbio -- a field of science that involves redesigning organisms for specific purposes by engineering them to have new abilities.

BBGI chief executive Kittiphong Limsuwannarot said his firm is developing a 1.2-billion-baht synbio production factory.

"Construction of BBGI's synbio facility began last year and it is scheduled to start operating in 2023," he said.

Sanchai Noombunnam, deputy managing director of Informa Markets Thailand & Myanmar Co, said his firm, as an exhibition organiser, has a role in helping promote the state's plans to develop new industries.

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