Major companies in Thailand’s chemical industry are making plans for new and expanded facilities for biochemicals and resins in view of a more sustainable society. There are also signs that small to medium-sized enterprises will jump in as new entrants.
Two large companies in chemicals and materials, PTT Global Chemical PCL (PTTGC) and Siam Cement Group PCL (SCG), are leading the effort in biochemicals and resins, and likewise in recycled resin. PTTGC is the only company in the world that handles bio-based polybutylene succinate, a plant-derived biodegradable, this coming through a joint venture with Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. (TYO:4188). Meanwhile, Global Green Chemicals PCL (GGC), a biochemical products subsidiary, is coming out with methyl ester and other offerings.
GGC is currently building a biocomplex. The company hopes to sell materials like lactic acid, polylactic acid (PLA) and bio-succinic acid as products. SCG is meanwhile working to increase annual sales volume of recycled resin to 200,000 tons by 2025.
As for foreign companies operating in Thailand, Total Corbion PLA BV is operating a PLA plant with an annual capacity of 75,000 tons.
Last year, Energy Absolute PCL, a new player, began commercial production of a palm oil-derived phase change material with thermal conductivity. A Japanese startup has completed a plant for mass producing artificially configured protein materials via a microbial fermentation process, with sugar cane and cassava serving as the raw materials. The startup’s target for commencing commercial production is the end of 2021.
Despite expansion on the supply side, Thailand’s domestic demand has struggled to grow. Manufacturers already in the business, such as Total Corbion PLA, account for the majority of exported products.
PTT PCL and SCG Group, which operate upstream ethylene facilities, are the center of Thailand’s chemical industry, while Japanese and other foreign firms handle derivatives. While Thailand has the greatest ethylene production capacity in Southeast Asia, locally based companies feel entrapped. As a major agricultural country, Thailand has labeled the bio industry a critical domain because it can take advantage of the superior raw materials that are locally available.
Among major firms, Thai oil company Bangchak Corporation PCL established a wholly-owned subsidiary last year to produce and sell biochemicals. Bangchak is exploring the creation of a two-company bio synthesis business by merging the subsidiary with an American startup in the synthetic biology sector.
Srithepthai, which sells food packaging materials, is considering entering the bioresin business with promising candidates that include a polyhydroxyalkanoic acid.
Then there is the Thai Ministry of Industry, which has launched a platform that aggregates information and data on bioresins, chemicals and pharmaceuticals for widespread use.