Bridgestone Creates Partnership to Focus on Natural Rubber Source

Feb. 15, 2018

Bridgestone Americas Inc. is partnering with a chemical company to develop a path toward the commercialization of guayle in the agricultural, sustainable rubber and renewable chemical sectors.

Versalis SpA is a major producer in the polymers and elastomers industry, and it will use its core strengths in the commercial-scale process engineering and market development of renewables alongside Bridgestone, which will focus on gauyule agriculture and production technologies.

Bridgestone says the partnership brings together the two largest global guayule research efforts under common project management, working toward a common goal of deploying a commercially attractive technology package. The two companies also will make the new joint technology available to industrial partners willing to cooperate in maximizing the value of these innovative products.

“Every collaboration, including this latest one with Versalis, brings us closer to our goal of developing new, domestic and sustainable sources for natural rubber that ultimately benefit our customers and our natural environment through more sustainable rubber products,” says Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer for Bridgestone. “This work is one of many ways we are using innovation to achieve our long-term vision of manufacturing products from raw materials that are fully renewable and sustainable by 2050 and beyond.”

The agreement will enable Bridgestone and Versalis to focus on developing varieties of guayule using the latest genetic technologies. The companies believe the growing protocols developed in line with this agreement may position guayule as an attractive and profitable crop for independent growers in appropriate regions.

Through the collaboration, guayule process technologies will be optimized at the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Ariz.

Versalis will lead the product development activities to monetize the guayule rubber production, also for non-rubber components. As for resins, market applications will include adhesives and wood protection while bagasse has shown promising performance as a feedstock for the production of industrial sugars suitable for biofuels or chemical precursors.

Finally, Bridgestone recognizes that realizing a sustainable natural rubber supply chain is a business imperative. Bridgestone takes a broad view of sustainable natural rubber, which includes addressing not only deforestation, but also labor rights, land use, water use and quality, and many other critical elements. The tire maker considers this agreement a significant milestone in its journey to develop a new and domestic source of natural rubber.

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