KSTM and its partners are currently focused on priority tasks for phase 1, including agronomic activities and mobilizing investment. The KZ-Rubber project will utilize 5,000 ha of land in the Almaty region for production during the commercial phase. Land resources could potentially be increased up to 800,000 ha by 2028 due to land resources available in other regions of Kazakhstan. After the commercial phase, KSTM’s production capacity is expected to increase gradually to 550 tons per year.
KSTM will sell all naturally produced rubber domestically at the market rate. Kazakhstan alone consumes more than 50 tons of natural rubber annually while the total EU consumption in 2016 was 11.97 Mt. It is estimated there will be a supply/demand deficit from 2023, increasing to an annual deficit of 900Kt in 2030. Alternative scenarios could see a surplus of 250 kt and an ever larger deficit of around 2,250 kt in that same year. An International Rubber Study Group report anticipates a deficit in all scenarios in the year 2025, ranging between 48 and 115 kt.
While KSTM is currently focused on natural rubber, the company has the strong intention and potential to develop key byproducts such as inulin, bioplastic, and biofuels. Inulin, which is a fructan (polymer of fructose molecules), can be used to enrich food with dietary fiber or to replace sugar and fat. Inulin is added to various foods, including bread to increase fiber and digestive benefits, as well as replaces sugar added to foods including cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), and dietary supplements. Inulin is also used in instant beverages, soy drinks and flavored waters as well as confectioneries like gum and ice cream.
Along with creating the inulin for use within food and pharmaceutical products, when dehydrated, inulin produces hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a yellow-brown powder that can be added to the process of making plastic. Currently, the popular method of creating plastic is through the use of a crude oil byproduct, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also known as polyester, which can take hundreds of years to decompose and is not sustainable. Today, a sustainable goal aims to replace the “T” in PET with the “F” from HMF to make polyethylene furanoate (PEF) bioplastic, which is a degradable substance. Therefore, there is potential to develop a similar process to extract inulin from the TKS dandelion as a building block to produce bioplastics which can then be used to sustainably produce eco-friendly bioplastic products and packages. Finally, once the rubber and inulin are extracted from the TKS dandelion, what remains of the plants can be used to produce biofuels, which can be utilized within the renewable energy market.