LyondellBasell may build world-scale chem-recycling unit in 6 years

Al Greenwood

09-Mar-2021

HOUSTON (ICIS)–LyondellBasell could start construction on a world-scale chemical recycling plant in the next five to six years, the CEO said on Tuesday.

“My hope is over the next five, six years, we’re in construction of a world-scale unit,” said Bob Patel, LyondellBasell CEO. He made his comments during the World Petrochemical Conference by IHS Markit.

LyondellBasell had commissioned a pilot-scale plant in Ferrara, Italy, that is testing the company’s MoReTec process technology that it developed with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

The process relies on a catalyst that provides selectivity to process the waste plastics into a pyrolysis oil closer to naphtha.

Chemical or molecular recycling breaks down waste plastic into feedstock that crackers can use to make ethylene. Companies can then convert the ethylene into polyethylene (PE).

By contrast, mechanical recycling remelts waste plastic into pellets that can be re-processed into new materials. Mechanical recycling can result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and it does not require the expense of building chemical plants.

However, plastic degrades each time it is mechanically recycled. After enough cycles, the plastic has to be discarded or burned as fuel.

Mechanical recycling also requires washing and sorting. Some plastic is too filthy for mechanical recycle.

Patel noted other advantages of chemical recycling. It can operate on larger scales and it can produce plastic approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FD), a US regulator.

“Ultimately, molecular recycling or turning waste into feedstock is the answer because it can be done at scale,” Patel said. “That loop of circularity is a game changer. We’re probably five years away from seeing this being more prevalent around the world.”

Thumbnail image by Shutterstock

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