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ABB to automate bioplastics plant to meet growing global demand

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ABB has been awarded a major contract by NatureWorks a manufacturer of polylactic acid (PLA), to automate their new plant in Thailand.
The plant will convert sugar cane to the PLA biopolymer IngeoTM.
The new plant will ferment and distill plant-based sugars converting themfirst to lactic acid, then lactide and then polymerise them into Ingeo.
These three separate production processes will be fully integrated, resulting in significant improvements in energy and production efficiency.
In addition, the integration of the fermentation phase will secure the supply of lactic acid. The Thailand facility will use sugarcane as feedstock and is set to produce 75,000 tons of sustainable plastic per year when fully operational. The anticipated projected startup for this greenfield facility is in the second half of 2024.
ABB’s scope of work is a two-part order including a FEED (front end engineering design) study followed by detailed automation project execution, with ABB acting as the main automation contractor.
ABB will deliver the hardware, software, control room design solutions, engineering, and site support to fully develop NatureWorks’ greenfield system.
“ABB’s global presence, especially in the US and Thailand, combined with their deep expertise in the chemical industry, leading automation solutions, and design optimization approach, makes them the obvious choice for a partner to help achieve meaningful progress in our new plant,” said Steven Bray, vice president of operations and project programme manager at NatureWorks.
“We also share a joint vision when it comes to resource efficiency, circular economy and sustainability.”
“We are proud to support NatureWorks in addressing the increasing demand for sustainable high-performance materials and helping maximize both energy and production efficiency in the new facility,” said Brandon Spencer, president, ABB energy industries.
“Our project with NatureWorks is perfectly aligned with our 2030 Sustainability Strategy and driving more sustainable use of our planet’s resources through innovative solutions that help reshape industries and enable a low-carbon society.”