Innovative sugar beet processor Cosun Beet Company, part of Royal Cosun, and Avantium N.V., a leading technology company in renewable chemistry, announce their ambition  to jointly construct and operate the first commercial plant for the production of plant-based glycols using Avantium’s Ray Technology™. To this end, Cosun Beet Company and Avantium entered into a Term Sheet to establish a joint venture in which Cosun Beet Company will take a substantial share.

Cosun Beet Company and Avantium plan to form the joint venture in 2021 with the aim to make an investment decision for the foreseen commercial plant in the first half of 2023 and commercial operations commencing in 2025. The joint venture is envisioned to be a world class producer of plant-based glycols to actively contribute to a fossil-free future.

Avantium’s Ray Technology™ converts sugars into glycols: plantMEG™ (mono-ethylene glycol) and plantMPG™ (mono-propylene glycol). MEG is a blockbuster commodity intermediate and plantMEG™ is a fully recyclable plant-based product used in broad applications like packaging, polyester textiles, and antifreeze. PlantMPG™ is non-toxic, plant-based and used for airplane deicing and in unsaturated polyester resins used in modern windmill blades and as heat transfer fluid in solar panels. Avantium currently produces plantMEG™ and plantMPG™ at its demonstration plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands using Cosun Beet Company’s beet sugar as the renewable feedstock. The products are being validated in commercially relevant applications by Avantium. The current collaboration between Cosun Beet Company and Avantium serves as a strong foundation for the envisioned joint venture business.

The Term Sheet describes the intention and conditions for the joint venture to acquire a Ray Technology™ license from Avantium as well as the key commercial terms for a long-term sugar supply agreement to secure the feedstock for the commercial plant.

As part of its licensing business model, Avantium will continue to develop and license its Ray Technology™ globally. Cosun Beet Company will continue to explore opportunities to expand its bio-based portfolio as part of the company’s strategy.

Paul Mesters, Cosun Beet Company CEO, comments: “We have the ambition to be the greenest, most innovative, and most successful sugar beet processor in the world. The collaboration with Avantium is an exciting example of our aim to maximise the valorisation of sugar beets while actively contributing to a fossil-free future. We look forward to growing and deepening our partnership with Avantium in the coming years.”

Albert Markusse, CEO Royal Cosun comments: “This innovative partnership between Cosun Beet Company and Avantium with the aim to turn the potential of plants into practical solutions for societal challenges, is at the heart of the Cosun vision. Together with our growers, we are well positioned to produce plant based solutions for a better future.”

Avantium CEO Tom van Aken comments: “The contemplated joint venture with Cosun Beet Company is a major development in the commercialisation of our breakthrough Ray Technology™. We aim to create value for all our stakeholders by bringing this game-changing technology to produce plant-based glycols to market along with our FDCA and PEF products. With Cosun Beet Company, we plan to construct the world’s first RAY sugars-to-glycols plant and enable the commercial launch of plant-based glycols in broad applications to help fulfil Avantium’s vision for a fossil-free world. Our partnership with Cosun Beet Company combines our complementary competencies and shared ambition to create solutions for a sustainable future.”

About plantMEG™ and plantMPG™

With its Ray Technology™, Avantium has found a way to produce mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) from plant-based feedstocks rather than fossil sources: plantMEG™. Currently, MEG is widely used as an important chemical building block for plastic bottles and packaging, polyester textiles for clothing and furniture, and antifreeze applications. The current MEG market is estimated at €24 billion in 2021. The vast – and ever-growing – market for MEG, however, poses a threat to the environment. At Avantium, we see plantMEG™ as the answer. PlantMEG™ gives brands the option of a sustainable, recyclable, and innovative ingredient that will attract environmentally conscious consumers. Avantium’s Ray Technology™ single-step catalytic process means plantMEG™ is cost-competitive with the petroleum-based incumbent while being identical to fossil-based MEG in quality and performance. By using the Ray Technology™, the plantMEG™ produced at the intended facility is expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil-based MEG. Avantium is expected to communicate results from an environmental life cycle assessment later in the year.

Ray plantMPG™ is a non-toxic, plant-based, high purity chemical used in airport operations for the deicing of airplanes, for use in unsaturated polyester resins, for example in modern windmill blades, as well as heat transfer fluid in solar panels. The global mono-propylene glycol (MPG) demand represents an estimated €3 billion market in 2021.

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Written by Kevin Gambrill