Industry experts such as ChemQuest and Orr & Boss estimate that bio-based systems account for about 5% of the overall coatings market in terms of value and slightly more than 1% in terms of volume. Nevertheless, industry experts from companies such as AkzoNobel, Covestro, and PPG expect more growth opportunities for bio-based systems. Industry insiders shared their views on the current situation and provided an outlook on the future of this market segment.
Mary Ellen Shivetts of PPG concurred with these sentiments. She says, "Bio-based coatings are an emerging market with about 5% of the market." Even though the segment represents a small share of the market, the industry cannot ignore it. Markus Mechtel of Covestro describes the market for bio-based coatings this way: "Across the value chain, more and more companies are looking to develop solutions that address climate change and global challenges such as scarce resources, and are committed to achieving the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, more and more consumers are demanding more sustainable products, including their sources." Shives sees bio-based coatings as one of the many ways manufacturers can realize the benefits of sustainability in the coatings industry. In this regard, she believes the bio-based coatings market offers an unprecedented opportunity for the coatings industry.
Berta Vega Sánchez of Covestro believes that bio-based coatings often have good potential for growth in terms of market share and in terms of opening up additional applications and industries. Its growth is driven by growing environmental awareness, climate programs such as the EU Green New Deal, and the ongoing transition to a circular economy. "The bright opportunities for bio-based coatings are in high-value applications and value chains driven by downstream companies, such as brand owners with strong sustainability policies, such as the automotive, furniture and packaging industries," Sánchez explains. " She added, "However, there are high industry standards for weatherability in highly fragmented traditional markets such as protective coatings, so it may take longer to launch new products and expand the use of renewable raw materials."
More R&D needed
Shives believes that all markets within the coatings industry are open to the possibility of bio-based coating alternatives, however, in certain market segments, more R&D work is yet to be done to ensure product performance. says Shivetts, "Typically, our customers always want the same quality of product with plant-based materials that without compromising performance. Although the number of bio-based coatings currently on the market is still relatively small, further research and development will lead to a deeper understanding of bio-based materials and their properties."
Sánchez explains that the market for these coatings is still small and that the production of these coatings and corresponding raw materials is more complex and more expensive than for conventional products, so they remain more expensive. "The industry is already working on second-generation biomass feedstocks derived from bio-waste and cellulose. Both of these materials are available in large quantities. This will further broaden the product range of biobased raw materials, however, significant research work is still required as the extraction of suitable raw materials from second-generation biomass is more complex and requires higher energy consumption compared to first-generation biomass."
AkzoNobel is exploring the use of bio-based components in both coatings market segments, replacing fossil components. "When reducing the carbon footprint of our products, we use both bio-based materials and materials with recyclable components. Because bio-based components are still similar to petroleum-based chemical components, our goal is not simply to find ways to apply them." said a spokesperson for AkzoNobel.
Cost and product performance are key
Covestro's approach takes into account some of the challenges that arise when using bio-based components. "Customer studies confirm that while bio-based solutions with a low carbon footprint can be considered based solutions, very few customers are willing to go the extra mile to sacrifice their quality. The production cost of preparing bio-based feedstocks is still typically higher than that of conventional feedstocks, and the cost of preparing bio-based feedstocks has to match the cost of the product.
It remains a challenge to match the performance of the product. We also do not expect that our bio-based components will compete with the food chain. Finally, we see that not all suppliers of bio-based materials can provide all of the LCA (life cycle analysis) data needed to support any product claims." Sánchez also believes that performance is critical: "Therefore bio-based polyurethane coatings and the raw materials used must achieve the same, if not higher, quality than petrochemicals."
Shives shares a similar view: "The two main challenges in developing bio-based coatings for our customers are to provide a stable raw material at a reasonable cost and performance. The second is performance. The switch to plant-based raw materials must not make the coating any less functional, which is a challenge for coating manufacturers to maintain standards."
The industry is working on these projects - there is still a long way to go
Despite these challenges and obstacles, industry experts remain confident that solutions can be found. merchant is convinced that the future of high volume production (economies of scale) will lead to lower prices and, as a result, will be able to offer renewable products at lower costs. "Compared to mature petrochemicals, the most important thing is that new molecular materials (which are almost directly substitutable) need to have competitive prices. On the other hand, for such directly substitutable components, mass balance is a faster way to integrate bio-based feedstocks into the value chain for such directly substitutable components, mass balancing is a faster way to integrate bio-based feedstocks into the value chain, without the need for large investments and/or adjustments in upstream infrastructure and processes. With the direct substitution option of mass balancing, it is also possible to integrate biobased feedstocks into the value chain under the same processing conditions. same processing conditions, it is also easy to produce coatings with products that comply with the circular economy and without any other risks." Michael explains.
According to Shivetts, the shift to bio-based coatings is influenced by a variety of factors, including regulations, customer needs, and the industry's ongoing concern for sustainability. The industry's continued focus on sustainability. She says, "Coating manufacturers must have the desire to invest in innovation and develop renewable resources to be motivated and develop high-performance bio-based products."
AkzoNobel recently announced a bio-based innovation developed in collaboration with the Chemical Building Materials Alliance of the Netherlands Centre for Advanced Research. This is a completely new technology that cures chemicals in coatings. an AkzoNobel spokesperson said, "This is a technological breakthrough that uses bio-based monomers that require only UV light, oxygen, and renewable raw materials, is a more sustainable way to produce resins. Thanks to this success story of positive collaborative innovation, we are moving to a higher level of coating technology. By using sustainable components, we are opening up a new future in coatings, which will allow us to explore and develop some really exciting features for our customers."
Nonetheless, the Dutch coatings manufacturer notes that the company still has a long way to go in terms of developing applications for the technology to go, however, it is almost certain that the future of our products is at stake. "By 2040 or 2050, we will most likely only use bio-based monomers in resin production, which will help us reduce the overall carbon footprint of our products."