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Chemical recycling of plastics is scaling quickly, say CEOs

March 09/2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The chemical recycling of plastics, also known as molecular or advanced recycling, is scaling quickly, according to Chemweek with reference to Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, and Jim Fitterling, chairman and CEO of Dow.

The two spoke last Tuesday at the CERAWeek 2021 by IHS Markit virtual conference.

Chemical recycling does not require the degree of sorting required by mechanical recycling, noted Patel, and it yields virgin resin completely identical to resins produced from traditional petrochemical feedstocks. "With molecular recycling, you can take mixed plastic waste, convert it back to feedstock, and then put it back in the front end of the cracker (to make olefins) and then polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP)," he said.

Patel said chemical recycling has the additional advantage of much larger scale than mechanical recycling. "I think we're probably three to five years way from being at the scale that our industry is used to," he said. "I think it has to be some form of pyrolysis, and then it's a matter of how do you scale that up and manage any sort of environmental impacts from the pyrolysis process itself."

Fitterling noted that many pilot operations are underway. "Everybody is learning how to deal with this new raw material supply and how to manage it through existing assets, and I think we're making great progress," he said. "We're also getting good traction on the methodology for how to account for it and make sure you can prove that it's sustainable, and that it's an auditable, traceable closed loop."

Closing the loop is not a purely technological problem, however.

"I think great way to think about it is, you're trying to create an entire ecosystem," said Fitterling. "We talk a lot of times about policies around circularity at a very high level, maybe a national or global level, but in reality the waste issues are very local, and so you have to deal with the local consumer and sorting out waste plastics, making sure they don't go to a landfill in the first place, and getting them to a recycling facility."

A fundamental challenge is that the cost of recycling is greater than business as usual, Fitterling noted. "But policies and that whole system can help close that loop by creating an incentive that brings private investment in, that creates jobs for the local community, and that creates a way for that material to get back in," he continued. "Because we've changed the equation from just being low cost to trying to reduce waste and get the carbon footprint down, and that's a different objective.

As MRC informed earlier, LyondellBasell Industries is restarting the gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracker (FCC) after completing the restart of the large crude distillation unit (CDU) at its 263,776 barrel-per-day (bpd) Houston refinery. The 147,000-bpd Unit 537 CDU is the first to restart since the refinery was shut on Feb. 15 by severe cold weather. The 90,000-bpd FCC could be back in production by early next week.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing PE and PP.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply of exclusively PP random copolymer increased.


mrcplast.com
Author:Margaret Volkova
Tags:PP, PE, PP random copolymer, propylene, LDPE, HDPE, ethylene, recikling, Dow, LyondellBasell, Russia, USA.
Category:General News
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