Shell joins W2C Rotterdam project

Article by Amanda Jasi

Curtis Trent / Enerkem
Enerkem already have a successful waste-to-chemicals plant operating in Edmonton, Canada

SHELL has partnered with world-leading companies to build Europe’s first advanced waste-to-chemicals (W2C) facility in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The project represents an important step towards a more sustainable chemical industry and a circular economy.

The W2C project will be the first of its kind in Europe to make valuable chemicals and biofuels from non-recyclable waste materials. The facility, which will use cleantech company Enerkem’s proprietary technology, will be built within the Botlek area of the Port of Rotterdam.

A consortium comprising Air Liquide, Enerkem, Nouryon, and the Port of Rotterdam signed the agreement for the commercial project last year. Shell will now be joining as an equity partner.

The planned facility will convert up to 360,000 t of waste – equivalent to the annual waste of more than 700,000 households – into 220,000 t of biomethanol. Biomethanol is a chemical building block used to manufacture a range of everyday products, and is also a renewable fuel.

For manufacture, non-recyclable mixed waste, including plastics, will be converted into syngas, and then into ‘clean’ methanol for use by the chemical industry and transport sector.

Currently, methanol is generally produced from natural gas or coal. It is estimated that the new facility will save 300,000 t in CO2 emissions compared to methanol production from fossil fuels. The project is expected to help the Netherlands realise its ambitions of becoming virtually carbon neutral by 2050.

The consortium aims to take the final investment decision (FID) for the project later this year. It has set up a dedicated joint venture, and has already undertaken preparatory work, covering detailed engineering and the permitting process.

Marco Wass, Chairman of the W2C project in Rotterdam and Director RD&I at Nouryon, said: “We are thrilled to have Shell join our group of partners.”

“The EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) coming into effect in 2021, as well as other environmental initiatives such as the Circular Economy Package are creating an ideal environment for leading companies to drive sustainable growth through innovation. The project will be further strengthened with the addition of another leading global partner.”

Andrew Murfin, General Manager of Advanced Biofuels at Shell, said: “Industry partnerships, just like this one, are critical to delivering some of the many solutions society will need to meet energy demand while reducing emissions to tackle climate change and air pollution. Advanced biofuels, including those produced using biomethanol, have the potential to decarbonise the transportation sector, in particular. This is an exciting prospect given transportation accounts for one fifth of global energy-related CO2 emissions, and will continue to rely on liquid fuels, especially for long journeys and heavy-duty vehicles, for years to come.” 

The companies say that W2C is a prime example of how a circular economy can be achieved by reducing fossil fuel reliance, diversifying the energy mix, and by making lower-carbon products whilst also offering a smart, sustainable alternative to landfilling and incineration.

The W2C project is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, which has agreed to develop mechanisms and regulation to bring the technology to full scale, to support the low-carbon transition of the Dutch economy.

W2C is also supported by the City of Rotterdam, the Province of Zuid-Holland and regional development agency InnovationQuarter.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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