Futerro is a 50/50 joint venture between Galactic and Total Petrochemicals established in September 2007 to bring to fruition the project to develop technology for Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) production from renewable vegetable resources.
One of the main goals of the project is construction of a demonstration unit to produce annually 1,500 tonnes of PLA (polylactic acid), using clean, innovative and competitive technology, developed and perfected by the Futerro partners. The process is split into two main steps:
1. Preparation from lactic acid of the monomer – lactide – and its purification. During the research and development phase, lactic acid will be sourced from Galactic, a world leader in lactic acid and lactates.
2. Polymerisation of lactide to produce a range of PLAs, initially for the packaging industry, especially food packaging but also for more technical applications. Being the world 8th largest petrochemicals company, Total Petrochemicals has a very good knowledge of this market.
The monomer part of the demonstration unit is expected to come on stream late 2009, while polymerisation will start early 2010. Futerro lactide and PLA should be available for internal evaluation by early 2010.
The construction of the demonstration unit runs parallel with the start of a 4-5-year R&D phase. This ambitious project is made possible by the financial support of the Wallonia Region as part of the Wallonia "Marshall" Plan competitive Hubs.
To bring the project to fruition Futerro is drawing on the expertise and synergies provided by its two shareholders, Total Petrochemicals, represented by its Feluy research centre, and Galactic. Futerro is also leveraging the scientific and technical expertise concentrated in the Walloon region, by conducting some of its research in the public research centres Materia Nova Natiss and Université de Mons-Hainault.
The project goals are as follows:
• Galactic: developing new openings for lactic acid by making it the base raw material in the new green chemistry.
• Total Petrochemicals: meeting ever-increasing demand for plastics from renewable sources.
Futerro’s mission is as follows:
• Developing clean, innovative and competitive technology for PLA production.
• Marketing lactic acid-based products (oligomers, lactide and PLA) for the commodity market and subsequently products with improved properties for more technical applications.
• Developing partnerships to promote the use of lactic acid-based products (oligomers, lactide and PLA) in new applications.
• Licensing its PLA technology.