Swiss fluid engineering company Sulzer Chemtech (Sulzer) will supply its technology to polylactic acid (PLA) biopolymer manufacturer NatureWorks’ new biopolymer facility in Thailand.

The plant in Nakhon Sawan Biocomplex (NBC) would produce 75,000 tonnes/year of Ingeo PLA, with Sulzer supplying its lactide purification and polymer production technology, engineering services and key equipment for the project, the Swiss firm said on 13 January.

The new facility would increase NatureWorks’ overall production capacity of lactic acid, lactides and advanced Ingeo PLA biopolymers in line with the company’s expansion plan.

“Sulzer Chemtech’s specialists have a proven track record delivering highly effective PLA units… Leveraging their expertise in process technologies for lactide and PLA products, NatureWorks will design and construct a… facility that will increase the global availability of functional, high quality Ingeo biopolymers,” Steve Bray, vice president of operations and project programme manager at NatureWorks, said.

Plans for the new Thailand plant were announced by NatureWorks in August following approval from the firm’s parent companies - global agribusiness giant Cargill, and GC International Corporation Company Limited, a subsidiary of Thai integrated petrochemical and refining company PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited (GC).

In its August statement, NatureWorks said construction of the new manufacturing in Nakhon Sawan province would begin in the second quarter of this year and was due for completion in 2024.

NatureWorks is active in North America, Europe, Japan and Asia Pacific, and started producing PLA biopolymers at commercial scale in 2002. In 2013, it extended its flagship facility in Blair, Nebraska, to 150,000 tonnes/year. This was followed by further expansion in 2020.

The company’s range of renewably-sourced polymers and chemicals includes its Ingeo brand of biopolymers, which are used in products such as compostable coffee capsules, tea bags, flexible packaging, disposal cutlery and 3D printing filaments.

Switzerland-headquartered Sulzer specialises in pumping, agitation, mixing, separation and purification technologies for fluids of all types.