Malaysia’s OCiKumho Sdn Bhd held a groundbreaking ceremony for a RM1.7bn (US$373,436M) epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant at the Samalaju Industrial Park in Bintulu on 2 November.

When operational, the new plant will produce ECH using glycerine as a feedstock, according to a Everchem Specialty Chemicals report on the same day.

ECH is traditionally produced from petrochemical-based propylene but can also be made from glycerine, a by-product of biodiesel and oleochemical production.

OCiCumho is a joint venture between Malaysian chemicals firm OCIM Sdn Bhd and South Korea-based Kumho P&B Chemical Inc.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) said on 8 August that the 100 kilotonne/year plant would be the first to manufacture ECH in Malaysia. with construction due to begin in the first quarter of 2023, and test operations to start in first quarter 2024.

The project was in line with Sarawak state’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030, which encouraged more development in green and renewable industries, Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said in the Everchem report.

Global glycerine supply comes from the biodiesel and oleochemical sectors. In oleochemical production, most glycerine is outputted as refined glycerine, with almost half of demand coming from the food and pharmaceutical sectors. ECH is the next largest user of refined glycerine.

The main application for ECH is epoxy resin, which is used in a wide variety of coating applications including paints, electronics, construction, composites and adhesives.