Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) and Versalis, a major producer in the polymers and elastomers industry, are forming a strategic partnership to develop and deploy a comprehensive technology package to commercialize guayule in the agricultural, sustainable-rubber and renewable-chemical sectors.
The partnership combines Bridgestone’s leadership position in guayule agriculture and production technologies with Versalis’ core strengths in commercial-scale process engineering and market development for renewables. This partnership brings together two of the 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 the 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,” said Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer, Bridgestone Americas. “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 proprietary, highly productive varieties of guayule using the latest genetic technologies. The associated growing protocols developed in line with this agreement may position guayule as an attractive and profitable crop for independent growers in appropriate regions, the two companies say.
Through the collaboration, guayule process technologies will be optimized at the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Arizona, to achieve optimal performance for product yield and quality.
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 says it 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 industry has acknowledged managing the procurement process as critical, but it is equally important to focus on realizing a sustainable and stable supply of natural rubber or alternative materials, developing long-term productivity improvements, and applying best-in-class technology for natural rubber production. Bridgestone is moving closer to its long-term environmental goal of developing a new, domestic and commercially viable source for natural rubber. This agreement is a significant milestone in Bridgestone’s journey to develop a new and domestic source of natural rubber.