The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published a patent application (U.S. 2015/0329449) from the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) for a production method using corn in the industrial manufacturing of a raw material called monoethylene glycol (MEG).
“Patenting this research will lead to advances in the production processes for corn based bio-MEG eliminating the need for the petroleum ethylene derivatives currently used and creating demand for Iowa corn,” said Chris Weydert, a farmer from Algona, an Iowa Corn Promotion Board Director and Vice Chair of Iowa Corn’s Research and Business Development Committee. “This one switch to a more renewable material will reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and improve the environmental footprint for hundreds of consumer products.”
Most MEG currently goes into making polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic used for beverage bottles, polyester textiles, and films, but MEG can also be used as anti-freeze, coolants, aircraft deicers and industrial solvents. A large proportion of the current bio-MEG goes into making the biorenewable bottles for Coca-Cola, Heinz, and PepsiCo.
The traditional way bio-MEG is made is through a conversion of sugar cane ethanol, which is usually sourced from Brazil, to ethylene, but still the majority of MEG comes from oil. ICPB’s new process can eliminate this added costs of bio-MEG by going from corn sugar to MEG in one step.
“Depending on the yield of MEG conversion from corn, it would take greater than 1.2 billion bushels of corn to saturate the entire 2016 projected demand of MEG,” explained Weydert. “Any MEG made from corn would not only be bio renewable, but also a direct replacement for what plastic manufacturers are already using.”
Improved manufacturing processes for bio-based materials will continue to expand the renewable products market. According to Transparency Market Research (TMR), a global market intelligence company providing business information reports, the global monoethylene glycol (MEG) market stood at $27 billion in 2014 and is anticipated to reach $40 billion in 2023.
Investment of checkoff dollars in research and business development allows for a direct return on Iowa corn farmer investments. Consequently, Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) research programs have continued to grow. ICPB research programs aim to find new and innovative uses of corn, such as plastics and industrial chemicals. ICPB is developing and licensing intellectual property to partner with companies; this strategy will increase the commercialization of new products related to corn, and create new opportunities for corn farmers.
“ICPB has been working on the MEG research project since 2013,” said Mark Heckman, President of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board from West Liberty. “We are excited to have the bio-based MEG production patent application made known to the public. We are hopeful that the patent will be granted in the near future.”
The Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB), works to develop and defend markets, fund research, and provide education about corn and corn products.