Dallas-based engineering firm Jacobs has completed the front-end engineering design for a new biopolymer production plant in Thailand for PLA supplier NatureWorks, the company has announced.
Now, Jacobs will begin final detailed engineering design for the new plant, which will be located at the Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex in Nakhon Sawan province.
In 2002, NatureWorks became the first to produce biopolymers at commercial scale at its facility in Blair, Nebraska. In 2013, the company expanded that plant, reaching an annual capacity of 150,000 metric tons, which made it the largest PLA manufacturing plant in the world.
While most plastics are made from non-renewable fossil-based products like oil, NatureWorks’ Ingeo biopolymer is made by using plants, like corn or sugarcane, to capture and sequester carbon dioxide into sugars that are fermented to make lactic acid. Partner companies transform the pellet product into a range of consumer goods, from compostable food containers to filament for 3D printers.
“NatureWorks’ global expansion is a major step forward for sustainable production of biopolymers from renewable resources, and Jacobs is working in lockstep with them as they innovate,” said Jacobs Advanced Facilities Senior Vice President Koti Vadlamudi. “We have built a collaborative relationship with a strong culture of transparency and trust, which has enabled us to support NatureWorks as it expands to meet demand for sustainable, biobased materials.”
The plant is the world’s first to be designed to be fully integrated, featuring full cycle operations from the fermentation of sugar through to the production of the Ingeo™ biopolymer product. NatureWorks estimates that the plant will be operational by 2024.
“As we approached the project to begin the global expansion of our manufacturing capabilities, we sought out an engineering partner that had deep expertise in both life science and polymers. Bringing these disciplines together is fundamental to the design of our new facility, which will be integrated from fermentation through to polymerization,” said NatureWorks Vice President of Operations and Project Program Manager Steve Bray. “Through the selection process and in our previous work with Jacobs on our first site in Blair, Nebraska, we found that Jacobs understands the unique requirements of implementing our manufacturing technology.”
Jacobs began work on the project in 2019 and leverages its experience with NatureWorks to continue delivery of the detailed engineering design phase.