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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Mitsui Chemicals invests in large UCO collector for Southeast Asia, China region

Chris Chen, Apeiron Bioenergy managing director (left), and Tadashi Yoshino, Mitsui Chemicals representative director, member of the board and managing executive officer (Photo: Mitsui Chemicals Inc.)

Mitsui Chemicals Inc. announced Aug. 31 that it has invested in Apeiron AgroCommodities Pte. Ltd., rebranded and now known as Apeiron Bioenergy.

Apeiron Bioenergy is one of the largest collectors and sellers in Southeast Asia and China of used cooking oil (UCO). Mitsui Chemicals stated that the investment will help it expand its procurement of biomass raw materials as it looks to meet growing demand for biobased chemicals and plastics.

“For Mitsui Chemicals, the investment in Apeiron Bioenergy will help ensure a stable supply of biobased hydrocarbons, which serve as a raw material for biobased chemicals and plastics,” the company stated. “For Apeiron Bioenergy, meanwhile, the move will add a steady new source of demand.”

According to Apeiron Bioenergy, the funds will support the increase of its collection capacity for waste-based feedstocks across Asian markets “and position the company for exponential growth amidst growing demand for renewable feedstock for advanced biofuels such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).”

Apeiron Bioenergy collects and processes a range of renewable feedstocks including UCO and palm oil mill effluent (POME), and “acts as a critical exporter across an ever-expanding Asian market,” Apeiron Bioenergy stated. “Over the past 15 years, Apeiron Bioenergy has built its presence in over 10 countries and collected more than 500 million liters (132 million gallons) of UCO between 2017-’21, offsetting an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions.”

Mitsui Chemicals noted that its investment in Apeiron Bioenergy is a strategic one. “Driven by the push for a carbon-neutral society, players around the world are ramping up efforts to replace petroleum-derived raw materials and fuels with waste-based or biomass-derived alternatives,” the company stated. “But given the limited supply of these raw materials available to meet growing demand, feedstock security is expected to become an increasingly crucial point going forward.”

With Mitsui Chemicals serving as a strategic investor, Apeiron Bioenergy stated that it will be “well-positioned to meet the substantial rise in demand for biofuels by ramping up its capacity of collection points and processing facilities through both organic and inorganic growth. The company is actively seeking to acquire or collaborate with local collectors of sustainable feedstocks in the Asian markets.”

Chris Chen, managing director of Apeiron Bioenergy, said, “Tackling supply-chain issues in bioenergy across Asia requires a community-focused, collaborative approach—our seasoned management team has proven that we can resolve supply-chain inefficiencies with our multicultural and multijurisdictional strategy. We will be ramping up our collection capability, collaborating closely with our downstream partners to resolve the wider sustainability problem of reducing carbon emissions across the land, sea and air transportation spaces.”

Mitsui Chemicals declared in November 2020 that it will seeks to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“Zero carbon emissions is one of our strategic targets by 2050,” said Tadashi Yoshino, the representative director and managing executive officer of Mitsui Chemicals. “As one of Japan’s leading chemical companies, our investment in Apeiron is our way of contributing to solving the world’s future environmental issues. Apeiron Bioenergy has a proven track record of aggregating renewable feedstock and streamlining the supply chain across Asia. We are delighted to invest in the company as it aligns with our sustainability goals.”

According to Mitsui Chemicals, it became the first company in Japan to employ biobased hydrocarbons, which were introduced to the Osaka Works in December 2021.

“Mitsui Chemicals has since been using these to begin a biomass transition for chemicals such as phenol, as well as plastics such as polypropylene,” the company stated. “Growing the market for biobased chemicals and plastics will also be a crucial factor in the push to increase biomass content across society as a whole. And by adding to Mitsui Chemicals a reliable source of biomass raw materials, the recent investment will help achieve both stable supply and market growth for the biobased chemicals and plastics derived from these raw materials.”

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