Praj Industries forays into renewable chemicals and materials

by Shahkar Abidi 16 Jul 2020

Pune-based Praj Industries has announced foraying into renewable chemicals and materials (RCM) industry. The new portfolio, christened as Bio-Prism comprises diverse bio-industrial products including bio-plastics along with cellulose-lignin refinery products and specialty products.

The company said that the RCM, which is produced from bio-based feedstocks, is a sustainable alternative to products made from fossil resources and has usage across sectors including automobiles. Praj has signed a memorandum of understanding with National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) for jointly working on various futuristic projects including the RCM segment.

Dr Pramod Chaudhari, executive chairman, Praj Industries announced the development during a virtual plenary session of advanced biotechnology leadership conference (ABLC)-2020. ABLC 2020 Digital is an annual gathering of industry stakeholders from across the world to share technological advancements and the latest industry trends.

Speaking on the sidelines of ABLC 2020 Digital, Dr Pramod Chaudhari, said, “Together with Bio-mobility, Bio-Prism becomes another mainstay of Praj’s contribution to the global bio-economy. Over the past 3 decades we have developed deep insights and expertise at our R&D facility, Praj Matrix, in processing a diverse range of bio-based feedstocks. Our stride in RCM is the result of exclusive work in molecular biology, microbiology, fermentation and chemical synthesis.” Describing the RCM project as “Nature Reimagined – The Promise of Sustainability”, he further added that Praj is open to exploring newer business models with strategic partners.

The RCM industry worldwide is estimated at $65 billion and is likely to cross $200 billion mark at a CAGR of 11-12 percent in a decade. The Asian market is pegged at around $25 billion. The company claims to have constituted an expert panel of advisors around the globe to help draw a strategic blueprint and guide the progression of RCM programme.

What’s triggering interest in RCM?
Renewable chemicals or RCM’s interest consist of ‘drop in’ chemicals which are bio-derived products. It can directly replace petroleum derived products as well as ‘Performance advantaged chemicals’ with similar or better properties and functionalities. Renewable materials imply finished products containing renewable chemicals in its entirety or partially. RCM offers performance, sustainability advantage as well as cost competitiveness, the company added.

Praj claims to have a feedstock bank containing composition data of over 10,000 agri-feedstock samples from across the world. Thus, sugary, starchy and cellulosic agri-based feedstock along with gases like biogas, methane and various non-edible oils are the starting materials for RCM. The company is said to be exploring Bio-catalytic, Chemo-catalytic and Thermo-chemical routes for the final conversion.

Bio-mobility is the future for Praj
Chaudhari, earlier in an interaction with Autocar Professional said  that his company is slowly but surely moving towards ‘bio-mobility’ with the aim to use bio technologies to fuel the mobility space right from two-wheelers to airplanes.

Praj Industries’ R&D Centre Praj Matrix is playing a critical role in the company’s journey since it was set up in 2008 with an initial investment of about Rs 80-100 crore. The facility which is spread across 80,000 square feet houses 16 well-equipped labs focusing on varied areas including molecular biology, bio process technology, process engineering and chemical sciences.  Praj supplied plants contribute about 8 percent of total ethanol production globally.