"Singapore serves as the ideal regional platform, especially as an access point for our bio-feedstocks and circular economy solutions into the broader ASEAN bloc."
Braskem made Singapore into a transshipment hub for Asia last year. What are the most significant milestones at Braskem in Southeast Asia?
Singapore serves as the ideal regional platform, especially as an access point for our bio-feedstocks and circular economy solutions into the broader ASEAN bloc. Last year, we signed an MoU with SCG Chemicals, one of Thailand’s largest petrochemical companies, to study the feasibility of a new bio-ethanol dehydration plant in Rayong. This development goes to show our commitment to supporting circular economy developments, whereby bio-feedstocks represent a critical part. Also, the collaboration with SCG is an example of Braskem’s globally minded investment strategy. While we can move ethanol, oil, or naphtha around the world, we are open to the opportunity to explore the sugar cane industry in Thailand, for instance, to localize bio-feedstocks. Finally, our recent partnership in Thailand also proves that we cannot realize our global climate ambitions alone – we need partners that share a common vision on sustainability and the future of bio-feedstocks.
What are the key demand trends you identify across both commodities and specialist sustainable products?
Commodities remain Braskem’s bread and butter, and in this space the packaging and health sectors drove the most growth. Demand for recycled products or products with a low carbon footprint was also robust. While durable and semi-durable products are more suitable to use recycled raw materials via mechanical routes, plastics for food packaging have stricter health and safety requirements and other specifications, therefore, they lend themselves to a biopolymer solution or recycled products through chemical routes. One key driver towards this heightened demand for both recycled and bio-based products are government regulations, including national carbon targets and their respective recycling frameworks. The second big driver are the brand owners that are taking their 2030 or 2050 carbon targets very seriously. Braskem works together with different industries to drive change and make these targets into a reality.
Do you think carbon taxation is an effective incentive for decarbonization?
I believe the introduction and gradual increase in the carbon tax value is a valuable initiative by the Singaporean government and other countries taking this approach, but the challenge I see is the short-sighted look at CO2 reduction within one’s own backyard. The truth is that CO2 doesn’t take note of borders and affects the entire world. When a manufacturer in Singapore buys bioethanol from Brazil, the product has realized a carbon capture function at the basis of its supply chain, yet this is not accounted for in a national carbon taxation model. The result of this thinking is that some manufacturers may choose a local solution over an international one, regardless of the comparable qualities, just to meet local carbon restrictions. As an industry, we need to implement a global perspective, look comprehensively across the value chain and beyond our own boundaries.
What are the opportunities for diversification in Braskem’s I’m Green portfolio?
Braskem’s technology for ethanol dehydration is not solely restricted to producing polyethylene (PE). While bio-ethylene is our primary product, we can extract other components like green propylene. Our advantage is that we can add new steps along our current production chain and make further bolt-on investments at sustainable costs. However, the challenge is around economics: Biopolymers follow a different price mechanism compared to simple fossil fuel commodities, and the market needs to arrive at the maturity to understand these differences. Right now, Braskem is looking at ways to strengthen the economic viability of our green chemical alternatives to make them more competitive in the market. As part of our I’m Green portfolio we have already launched ethylene derivatives like the Green Wax, the world’s first renewably sourced polyethylene wax, with the same properties as a fossil fuel wax. We have also launched the bio-based ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), an elastomer polymer with a rubber-like feel for which we found a market gap in sectors like the footwear industry.
Do you have a final message for our audience?
For us, Asia is our next growth boundary, with an immense unmet need for green technologies. It is one of our main ambitions to grow in Asia and add real value in developing the circular economy in the continent given our decade-long expertise in bio-PE production.