Cargill plans U.S. plant to process corn to replace chemicals

CHICAGO, June 8 (Reuters) - Cargill Inc said on Tuesday it will build a plant in Iowa to turn sugars from corn into replacements for chemicals that can be used to make spandex and biodegradable plastics, creating a new use for the crop.

The $300 million project, a joint venture with Germany-based HELM, aims to meet increasing demand from consumers and companies looking for more environmentally friendly products.

Cargill and HELM will ferment corn-based sugars to produce a 1,4-butanediol, or BDO, in the country’s first commercial-scale, renewable facility for the product, according to a statement. It can replace chemicals made from fossil fuels like petroleum, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Cargill said.

The plant will be completed in 2024 at an existing Cargill corn-processing complex in Eddyville, Iowa, according to the company. U.S. corn supplies are tight due to strong sales to China, and corn futures prices are near eight-year highs.

The new facility will use about 30,000 bushels of corn per day, said Jill Zullo, Cargill vice president of biointermediates and bioindustrial, in an interview. That is roughly 10% of the use of the corn-processing operation in Eddyville, which includes ethanol, she said. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Richard Chang)