In 2013, Gevo – the company headed by Patrick Grüber, the polymer scientist previously behind the development of NatureWorks’ Ingeo PLA fibre – is aiming to produce a million gallons of bio-isobutanol a month at its first commercial plant in Luverne, Minnesota, USA, opened last year.
The significance of this to the nonwovens industry should not be underestimated, given initiatives such as Procter & Gamble’s pledge to replace 25% of all of its petrochemical raw materials with renewables by as early as 2020, with the eventual goal of going 100% renewable.
P&G is the world’s biggest buyer of nonwoven fabrics for its Pampers diapers and other hygiene products.
During 2012 Gevo announced that it had succeeded in producing PTA synthesized from bio paraxylene based on isobutonal. As a result, combined with commercially-available sugar-based MEG, Toray in Japan has subsequently produced its first 100% bio-based PET fibres.
Gevo’s plans, however, go further, and it is now planning to open a second bio-isobutanol in Malaysia, in order to tap into the huge potential market for both biofuels and biochemicals in the Asia and Pacific Rim region, at a cost of $250 million.
A full report on all of the developments driving the production of fibres and nonwovens from renewable resources will be published in the first print issue of Sustainable Nonwovens 2013, out March 26th.