CLEVELAND—Total Cray Valley is starting to see some payoff from a multi-year development project to produce sustainable, petroleum-derived feedstocks.
The unit of France's Total S.A. recently completed the first commercial production run of its Krasol-brand F 3000, a polyfarnesene diol, at its manufacturing site in Kralupy, Czech Republic.
Krasol F 3000 is the latest addition to Total Cray Valley's line of Krasol- and Ricon-brand liquid polybutadiene resins. It is based on trans-ß-farnesene, which the firm said is a renewable alternative to petroleum-based feedstocks such as butadiene. It can replace polyether and polyester diols while providing lower viscosity and improved moisture resistance.
TCV said its customers can use the new technology to produce specialty adhesives for electronics and automobiles that have excellent moisture resistance, and also enjoy increased design flexibility to produce electrical encapsulants. Krasol F 3000's lower viscosity also will open new markets such as sprayable coatings.
The firm said a hydrogenated version also will be available.
Using partner technology
The trans-ß-farnesene is produced by Amyris—about 25 percent owned by Total S.A.—under the tradename Biofene. It stemmed from an Amyris project to develop a technology to convert sugar into building block molecules for fuels and chemicals.
But sustainability is only one aspect of the technology, said Steve Henning, TCV global research and development director for refining and chemicals.
"You have to create value because no one's going to pay for green," he said at this past fall's ACS Rubber Division Rubber Expo in Cleveland. "We're creating value two ways. One is through using this feedstock as leverage to start pushing away a little bit from our reliance on petroleum-based feedstocks. We're not as interested in me-too bio-based products. We're interested in sustainable feedstocks that you can't get from the distillation or refining of petroleum."
Henning said the value of the farnesene monomer comes from its structure. "At the end of the day, we're able to produce value not through sustainability but through differentiating structure/property relationships from other diene-based feedstocks," he said.
Farnesene-based materials have a much lower viscosity at the same molecular weight as a polybutadiene material, he said. Now the firm can offer hydrophobicity with this technology, along with a lower viscosity. "So people can formulate for properties, not to keep the viscosity low," he said.
From a supply-chain perspective, TCV generates some interest from customers when they find out the firm is looking to leverage sustainable feedstocks against some higher carbon feedstocks that can at times be difficult to source. "If we can disconnect from the petroleum supply chain with a sustainable material, we hedge that bet a little bit for our customers," Henning said, "and they appreciate we're starting to go down that road."
TCV first delivered a technical paper on the technology at the ACS Rubber Division fall 2016 meeting in Pittsburgh, and has presented at a number of other conferences since, including the UTECH Congress' Polyurethanes Automotive Conference this past October in Amsterdam.
"The response has been overwhelming," he said. "We had our first commercial trial of the material this past summer. That is what enabled us to open the floodgates on sampling. We're sampling not from the lab now, but from commercially viable material."
The technology is seeing potential use in applications such as adhesives and sealants, urethane technologies, automotive and electronics. "We're getting great feedback, even to the point we're getting feedback potentially for additional grades we could be preparing and commercializing in the near future," the TCV official said.
Henning said the project has been in development for about six years. The firm knew the technology had potential, but it took time to refine the new product development cycle and also to generate the intellectual property portfolio around the new materials.
He believes the new technology will gain traction by application, rather than by geographic regions. There has been interest in automotive adhesive and sealant uses, and many of those primarily are driven by European-based technical centers. And the electronics uses largely fall under Asian-based supply chains and manufacturing sites.
TCV has high hopes for the new technology, but as a specialty resin producers, he said goals are measured in volumes that are much lower than they would be for elastomer producers.
Initial production for the farnesene-based materials is at the Czech Republic site, but it also will be made at TCV's newest polybutadiene polyol plant that is being commissioned in Carling, France. Henning said the new site likely will make Cray Valley the world's largest polybutadiene resin supplier.
The firm has polybutadiene resin production in the U.S. in Colorado and Texas, but not for these new materials.