API Institute (Applied Polymer Innovations) and Cumapol (CUstom MAde POLyesters) are neighbouring companies at Emmtec Industry & Business Park in Emmen (the Netherlands). Both have their own way to anticipate the strongly increasing demand for biobased polymers.
‘Our main activity is to produce high-quality polyesters, e.g. from waste materials’, says Marco Brons, Cumapol’s CEO. ‘We collect, sort out and select, shredder, finish, and extrude to pellets. We remove any volatile substances in a finishing step. We own two polymerization units, to a total capacity of 25 ktons a year. We specialize in producing polymers within very narrow specifications, exactly in conformity with the customers’ wishes. We produce such special polyesters and advise, too.’
‘Our present line of development is to import and reformulate MEG-based PET (from monoethylene glycol), produced in India.’
API is a research institute specialised in applied research on polymers. It consists of a research lab and a pilot plant. The lab analyses and characterizes in great detail all polymers, using techniques like thermal analysis, rheology, microscopic analysis and structural analysis.
We can synthesise polymers in our pilot plant up to a reasonably large scale,’ says API’s CEO Onno Lint. ‘Subsequently we can process them in a number of ways. We have spinning reels for yarn and yarn processing development. We can compound and extrude polymers. We have a strong knowledge base in finishes. Finishes are lubricants, surface active compounds and additives which we apply to polymer yarns for smooth processing and for the production of custom made, high-quality products.’
‘Biobased polymers are a megatrend in the yarn and polymer industry, and API has ambitions, too, in that field. But we do not polymerize on an industrial scale ourselves. API could profit from a ‘green’ polymerization plant next door, ideally at Cumapol. They too, originated from AkzoNobel and are located in the same industrial area. Cumapol investigates the idea of revitalizing the old equipment. It would be a good thing to have suppliers at close distance, and take a keen interest in all realistic local pathways.’
‘We also benefit from research institutes close by, notably Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Groningen University, Utrecht University, and Wageningen University and Research. We have close working relationships with them, and would like to strengthen them.’
Looking for partners in the region
‘Recently, our Agro-Biopolymer project was approved, which is important to us. This project’s goal is to realize sustainable innovations on the basis of agricultural products or waste streams, if possible directly adjacent to Northern Dutch agriculture and horticulture. One of our aims is to develop a 100% biobased and biodegradable project carpet, which upon removal does not have to be incinerated. And we envisage biodegradable products in road construction and hydraulic engineering, a backing for grass sods which will decompose biologically, and of course biodegradable yarns for horticulture.’
Agro-Biopolymers is a genuine SME initiative. Twenty SME’s in the Netherlands and Germany cooperate in a cluster. Eems-Dollard region, Dutch EL&I ministry, Drenthe province, land Niedersachsen and European funds have contributed to the project. But SME’s, among them API, carry an appreciable share of costs. ‘This indicates how much value we attach toward a quick move for biobased polymer products.’
Courtesy NOM, development agency for the Northern Dutch provinces