Leading Japanese chemical company Sumitomo Chemical has started building an ethanol-to-propylene pilot facility in Japan.

Construction of the facility at the Sodegaura site of the company’s Chiba Works in Japan was expected to be completed by the first half of 2025, the company said on 25 October.

Currently produced mainly by cracking fossil resources, such as naphtha, propylene is classified as an upstream petrochemical, while ethanol can be produced from biomass, such as sugarcane and corn.

Sumitomo Chemical said it would use data from the pilot facility to scale up the process for commercial production, while also providing samples of polypropylene for customer evaluation from the propylene produced.

The company said it was aiming to start commercial production with the new process, as well as licensing of the technology to other companies, by the early 2030s.

The technology being developed by Sumitomo is one of the projects supported by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)’s Green Innovation (GI) Fund.