NatureWorks, a manufacturer of polylactic acid (PLA), a sugar-derived biopolymer, has started the construction of a new factory in Nakhon Sawan in line with a state policy to support bio-, circular and green (BCG) economic development.
PLA is a compostable biopolymer that can be used in a variety of applications ranging from coffee capsules and food packaging to 3D printing filament, hygienic masks and home appliances.
NatureWorks is a joint venture between SET-listed PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) and US-based Cargill Inc, both with a 50% stake.
The US$600-million factory, to be located in the Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex (NBC), is the second biopolymer production facility following an initial plant in Blair, Nebraska.
Completion of the facility, with annual production capacity of 75,000 tonnes of biopolymers, is expected in the second half of 2024.
“This is a meaningful milestone for the whole NatureWorks team,” said Rich Altice, president and chief executive of NatureWorks.
Kongkrapan Intarajang, chief executive and president of PTTGC, said the new biopolymer factory will employ the world’s most advanced biopolymer technology and use sugar from Thai cane farmers as a key raw material.
This will add value to Thai agricultural produce, he said.
The government is promoting the BCG economic model because it encourages manufacturers to adopt technology that adds value to their products while causing little or no impact to the environment, said Mr Kongkrapan.
The administration views BCG as part of the country's sustainable economy and declared it a national agenda item.
PLA production is one project slated for the second-phase development of the NBC.
The complex, located on 2,000 rai in the Takhli district of Nakhon Sawan province, emphasises high-tech biochemical industry, including biopharmaceutical development.
PTTGC’s biochemical arm, Global Green Chemicals Plc, is involved in the first phase, which calls for the construction of: a sugar-cane crushing unit with a daily capacity of 24,000 tonnes; an ethanol production plant with a daily capacity of 600,000 litres per day; a biomass power plant producing 85 megawatts; and the production of 475 tonnes of steam per hour.