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Emission reduction

Life Cycle Assessment shows: Avantium’s plantMEG™ cuts carbon footprint by up to 83% over fossil-based MEG

3:00 min Biobased Material
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Avantium recently conducted a third party and critically reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study on the environmental impacts of its plantMEG™ (monoethylene glycol), from its Ray Technology™. The LCA shows a greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction of up to 83% over the life cycle when Avantium’s plantMEG™ is compared with its fossil-based incumbents.

MEG is a blockbuster commodity intermediate, used for plastic bottles and packaging, polyester textiles for clothing and furniture, and antifreeze applications. Today, more than 99% of MEG is produced from fossil feedstock, such as naphtha, shale gas, natural gas and coal. Avantium’s plantMEG™ is a fully recyclable, plant-based and competitive product while being identical to fossil-based MEG in quality and performance.

Avantium partnered with Sphera to perform a cradle-to-grave LCA for Avantium’s plantMEG™ in its most applicable market (PET bottles) in 2025 with a regional focus on Europe. The LCA takes into account the use of beet sugar from Cosun Beet Company (1) , the process based on Avantium’s Ray Technology™, as well as the end-of-life (at which point waste materials are recycled, incinerated or landfilled). The LCA is aligned with European Commission 2025 target setting for PET and plastic bottle collection and recycling in the Single Use Plastics Directive and uses the Circular Footprint Formula for end-of-life allocation. The study compared Avantium’s plantMEG production with current incumbent alternative production routes of MEG (using natural gas, naphtha, shale gas and coal feedstock). For the plantMEG™ production process, electricity from wind, green hydrogen based on wind power and thermal energy from natural gas was assumed (2) . The plantMEG™ LCA study has been conducted according to the guidelines of ISO 14040/14044 and has been reviewed by an external critical review panel.

PlantMEG™ Carbon Footprint

The use of renewable feedstock (beet sugar from Cosun Beet Company) for plantMEG™ is the main driver for the reduced carbon footprint, 574kg CO2eq (3)/t plantMEG™ compared to fossil-based MEG. The thermal energy used to produce plantMEG™ is the second driver for the carbon footprint. GHG emissions are 56%-83% lower compared to fossil-MEG (ranging from 56% compared to MEG made from shale gas to 83% for coal-based MEG). PlantMEG™ performs even better under the so-called “substitution approach”, which takes the perspective that recycling into secondary material at the end-of-life will substitute an equivalent amount of virgin material. With this approach, plantMEG™ scores 72%-89% better than fossil-MEG. In above figures, carbon sequestration (4) during biomass growth is not taken into account, in line with the international standards and methods in Europe which do not allow for carbon discounting based on temporary storage. (5)

“The LCA provides clear confirmation of the positive impact provided by Avantium’s plantMEG™. Our high-quality plantMEG™ is identical to fossil-based MEG in quality and performance. But the advantage is clear: the process of making plantMEG™ results in significantly lower CO2 emissions. This makes it a real game-changer for our collective green future”, says Math Lambalk, business development manager at Avantium Renewable Chemistries and responsible for the plantMEG™ LCA.

www.avantium.com

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(1) Avantium and Cosun Beet Company have a long established relationship. Avantium currently uses Cosun Beet Company’s beet sugar as renewable feedstock for the production of plantMEG™ and plantMPG™ in its demonstration plant in Delfzijl. The companies entered into a Term Sheet to establish a joint venture to construct a first commercial plant to produce plantMEG™ and plantMPG™ using the Ray Technology™ of Avantium. The Term Sheet includes key terms for the joint venture to acquire a Ray Technology™ license from Avantium, as well as the key terms for a long-term sugar supply agreement with Cosun Beet Company to secure the feedstock for the commercial plant.

(2) The life cycle impacts of plantMEG™ are sensitive to assumptions around energy sources. Given a scenario using the national electricity grid mix, grey hydrogen based on natural gas and thermal energy from bio-mass for the Ray Technology™ production, significant changes to total results compared to the base case results occur for climate change, primary energy demand, particulate matter, marine eutrophication, water and land use.

(3) CO2 equivalent, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is a standard unit that is used to standardise the climate effects of various greenhouse gases. The equivalent expresses the amount of greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, using an equivalent concentration of CO.

(4) Carbon sequestration is the storage of carbon in plants. All plants absorb CO2 during growth. When the plant (e.g. a sugar beet) is used to make a biobased product (e.g. plantMEG™), this biogenic carbon is temporarily stored in this product. At the product’s end of life (i.e. when it can no longer be recycled and the product gets incinerated), the carbon re-enters the natural carbon cycle, thereby closing the carbon cycle.

(5) European Commission – Joint Research Centre – Institute for Environment and Sustainability. (2010). International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook - General guide for Life Cycle Assessment - Detailed Guidance. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

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