Materials Science

LG Chem and GS Caltex Boost Commercialization of World’s First 3-Hydroxypropionic Prototype

LG Chem today announced that it will accelerate its eco-friendly bio raw materials business with the South Korean major oil refiner, GS Caltex.

LG Chem and GS Caltex signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together on a joint project on the development of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3HP), a key substance for eco-friendly materials, including biobased plastics. The signing ceremony took place at LG Chem’s Magok R&D Campus, located in Seoul, and was attended by LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol, GS Caltex CEO Hur Saehong and R&D staff members from both companies.

This MOU follows the joint development agreement (JDA) established between LG Chem and GS Caltex in 2021 to develop 3HP mass-production technology. In July last year, upon this agreement, the two companies constructed a 3HP demonstration plant at GS Caltex’s complex in Yeosu, a city located on the southern coast of South Korea. This recently completed plant is slated for prototype production in the first quarter of 2024.

Under the MOU, LG Chem and GS Caltex will review the 3HP joint business model and matters related to the business. The two companies will also talk through comprehensive ways to collaborate in the sector, such as establishing a joint venture for expansion, in light of the biobased materials and bioplastics market conditions.

“We will strengthen our partnership with GS Caltex in the white bio sector for a sustainable future and continue to take the lead in green technologies that leverage our goal to reach net zero by 2050,” said LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol.

“Based on such cooperation in developing eco-friendly raw materials, we aim to build up our ESG capability — for instance, contributing to the circular economy and achieving carbon reduction — to create economic value by commercializing high-value-added products,” said GS Caltex CEO Hur Saehong.

3HPs are environment-friendly materials produced through the microbial fermentation process of plant-derived raw materials. Plastics made from 3HPs can replace various types of single-use plastics as they are highly biodegradable and very flexible. 3HPs are also appreciated as next-generation platform chemicals as they are convertible to bio-acrylic acids and can be applied to super absorbent polymers (SAP) for diapers as well as paints, adhesives, coatings, carbon fibers and more.

The 3HP prototype of LG Chem and GS Caltex is likely expected to be the first 3HP commercialization case in the world, for there have been several global attempts to develop 3HP-related technologies but none have been commercialized to date.

LG Chem and GS Caltex were able to reach this point by combining LG Chem’s source technology in 3HP fermentation and GS Caltex’s technology in separation and purification, along with its capability to scale up the process across the laboratory, benchmark, pilot, demonstration, and commercialization phases.