The Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) has received a U.S. patent (U.S. 2015/0329449) for a production method using corn in the industrial manufacturing of a raw material called monoethylene glycol (MEG). The product can be used as a replacement of fossil-fuel-based chemicals used in products such as plastics and helps the product to biodegrade.
“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.”
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. Thus, there could be opportunities for ethanol biorefineries to add another co-product to the line-up.
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. ICPB cites 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.
“ICPB has been working on the MEG research project since 2013,” added 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.”