Plastic Energy joins forces with ExxonMobil on plastic waste

Article by Adam Duckett

PLASTIC ENERGY has agreed another partnership with an industry heavyweight – this time ExxonMobil – to build a plant that will turn waste plastic into chemicals feedstock.

The partners have been developing plans since 2018 and say they will make a final investment decision in mid-2021 to build what they describe as one of the largest advanced recycling plants in Europe. If agreed the plant is expected to start operations in 2023 and would be sited next to ExxonMobil’s Notre Dame de Gravenchon petrochemical complex in France. Plastic Energy will build, own and operate the plant, which will have an initial capacity to process 25,000 /y of plastic waste, with plans to scale to 33,000 thereafter.

Plastic Energy has developed a process it calls Thermal Anaerobic Conversion, which takes end-of-life plastics that cannot be recycled, and converts them back into a hydrocarbon feedstock called TACOIL. This feedstock is then used to produce fresh plastics or fuel. This helps create a circular economy for mixed, contaminated and multi-layered plastics and those that cannot be mechanically recycled.

The process diverts waste plastic from landfill and incineration and reduces demand for crude oil production. Plastic Energy operates two plants in Spain that have been operational since 2014 and 2017. In January, it announced it is working with SABIC on the engineering and construction of a commercial unit in the Netherlands. Last year it agreed a partnership with Total to build its first facility in France, and is exploring opportunities with Nestlé including for a plant in the UK. In 2019, it agreed a partnership with Malaysia’s state energy firm Petronas.

“This project with ExxonMobil is another important step toward a more circular economy for plastics,” said Carlos Monreal, founder and CEO of Plastic Energy. “Plastic Energy’s aim is to continue to build recycling infrastructure in France, and globally, to increase recyclability of plastics.”

Karen McKee, President of ExxonMobil Chemical said: “We’re well-positioned to add value through our expertise in plastic manufacturing and high-performance products to help advance projects like this, which deliver sustainable solutions at scale.”

Plastic Energy’s process won IChemE’s Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering Award in 2020.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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