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Southeast Asia promising hub for emerging bio-based chemicals

Driven by large and widespread feedstocks and government incentives, Southeast Asia is positioned to be a hub for bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC), according to a report released by Lux Research.

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand – the three largest producers of palm oil – are parlaying their natural strengths into the emerging BBMC space, says Lux Research. Malaysia is focusing on new oleochemicals while Thailand is focusing on bioplastics; Indonesia has ample feedstock but presents more challenges due to a lack of government support for bio-based chemicals. 

“Historically, most of the venture capital investment in BBMC has gone to start-ups based in North America and Europe,” said Julia Allen, Lux Research Analyst and an author of the report titled, Assessing the Bio-based Chemicals Landscape in Southeast Asia, which is part of the Lux Research Bio-based Materials and Chemicals Intelligence and the Coatings Intelligence services. 

“Firms such as Altranex, for example, could develop supply chains in this region to tap into locally available feedstocks, like fat-rich waste effluents,” she added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated growth of the BBMC industry in Southeast Asia and the opportunities it presents to global investors. Among their findings:

  • Malaysia's palm oil boosts the potential for new oleochemical technologies. Malaysia, the world’s second largest producer of palm oil, is best suited to produce new oleochemicals. Foreign companies such as Verdezyne and Biosynthetic Technologies have received investments from local conglomerate Sime Darby
     
  • Thailand aims to be an ideal site for bioplastics. Thailand enjoys numerous advantages in bioplastic manufacturing. It has ample sugarcane – 100 million MT in 2013 – and enjoys supportive policies. Foreign players here include NatureWorks and Corbion Purac.
     
  • Elevance is the sole commercial bio-based chemical player in Indonesia. Indonesia’s lack of government support and suboptimal infrastructure make the world’s largest producer of palm oil – 33 million MT in 2014 – a less attractive geography. Elevance does have a 180,000 MT oleochemical facility and the potential to double capacity, but has delayed scale-up plans. 

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