Propylene glycol, also known as 1,2-propane-diol, is a multifunctional chemical used in several industrial fields, pharmaceuticals, food and cosmetics. Conventionally, it is obtained from petroleum based feedstock for industrial scale production. Recent developments have uncovered a new technique for obtaining propylene glycol from corn starch. The process involves production of carbohydrates from starch.
Biobased products are adopted on the premise that they are environment friendly attributed to their renewable origin. However, environment friendliness of any product depends upon various factors some of which include emission of green house gases throughout various steps involved in a products lifecycle, i.e., from raw material production to degradation of after-use residues through production, distribution and end-use. Some biobased products might be environment friendly until they are converted to finished products but might breakdown into toxic residual materials. Biobased propylene glycol process was compared to the petroleum based route to find out the environment friendliness of both methods by Archer Daniels Midland Company. The results showed that there is a 61% reduction in green house gases emissions, proving that biobased propylene glycol performs better than petroleum based propylene glycol in terms of carbon footprints.
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Propylene glycol is a multi functional material that can be utilized for several applications. It can serve as solvent, connect and stabilize insoluble fluids as an emulsifier, help in binding and transportation of other substances as an excipient. It can also be used to hold and dissolve active ingredients in a medium, attract, hold, water or moisture as an hygroscopic material, reduce freezing point, and increase boiling point.
Regulatory pressure to reduce carbon footprint and a general shift towards environment friendly products to enhance sustainability of processes is expected to drive the market for biobased propylene glycol. Additionally, with increase in disposable income of the rapidly growing population the market of personal care products and food products is expanding due to the escalating demand. This, in turn, adds to the demand for biobased propylene glycol. However, competing uses of the biobased feedstock sources such as corn and soy as foods and biofuels might hamper the market growth by causing supply shortages. Furthermore, supply of raw materials also depends upon the yield of the crops and the number of farmers undertaking the production of corn and soy.
Polypropylene glycol is primarily used as a chemical intermediate, especially for unsaturated-polyester resins utilized in surface coatings and fiberglass reinforcement for structures. Polypropylene glycol is also utilized for the production of industrial chemicals and personal care products, cosmetics and pharmaceutical preparations and solvent for colors and flavors in food, liquid detergents & household products, plasticizers, pet food, lacquers & varnishes and tobacco humectants.
North America and Europe are likely to be the leading markets supported by strict regulations regarding carbon footprint, green house gases emissions and sustainability initiatives. U.S. in North America and Brazil in South America are among the largest producers of corn and soy, which secures supply of the raw materials for biobased feedstock production in these regions. Asia Pacific and Rest of the World markets are expected to grow rapidly with initiatives being taken towards sustainability and reduced carbon footprint. China and Japan are leading in shift towards sustainable processes and reduction in carbon footprint of the industries in the region. This is anticipated to fuel growth of biobased propylene glycol in these regions.
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Some of the key players producing biobased propylene glycol include Archer Daniels Midland Company, Ashland Incorporation, Cargill and the Dow Chemical Company.