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(edited)

Dow to Deploy Plastics-to-Oil Process

 

 

Bloomberg) -- Dow Inc. is partnering with the Dutch developer of a method for turning plastic trash back into oil as the global chemical powerhouse seeks to expand recycling amid rising alarm over pollution.

Fuenix Ecogy Group has created a method for breaking down plastic into a form that can be used in a fresh round of manufacturing. Dow plans to implement the process at its plant in Terneuzen, the Netherlands, and make it a recycling mainstay, the companies said Thursday.

Chemical companies are under pressure to address plastic waste that clogs oceans, damaging wildlife and ecosystems around the world. Manufacturers and consumer brands are trying to head off a backlash that’s already eroding demand.

Retail and consumer giants including Unilever NV and Walmart Inc. have committed to increase use of recycled plastics, creating an estimated $120 billion market in Canada and the U.S. alone. A lack of cost-effective technology has been one of the biggest obstacles.

Transformational Technologies

At least 60 companies are working on solutions and need investment to scale up more quickly, according to a report by Closed Loop Partners, an investment firm focused on cutting waste in the economy. The vast majority of the plastic sent out into the world is never recovered, and nearly 90% of such waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, rivers and oceans. Only about 6% of plastics used in the U.S. and Canada are available for recycling, according to the report.

Fuenix’s technology is a more flexible solution than traditional mechanical recycling, which reuses plastic for a limited range of applications, according to Dow, one of the worlds’ biggest manufacturers. The product of the process, called pyrolysis oil, is appropriate for making food packaging and medical products that normally require freshly mined hydrocarbons such as crude oil.

“You can’t see the difference,” said Carsten Larsen, Dow’s director of recycling in Asia and Europe, in an interview. “The plastics that we make from the pyrolysis oil and the crude oil are the same.”

Fuenix, which developed the technology over the past seven years, is focusing on recovering plastics that can’t otherwise be reused or recycled. Most companies with similar processes convert plastic waste into fuel, Chief Executive Officer Sirt Mellema said in an interview.

The partnership will help Dow use at least 100,000 tons of recycled plastic to make products sold in the European Union by 2025, the company said in a release. The EU is moving to ban single-use plastics, such as plates, cutlery and straws as early as 2021 in a bid to reduce ocean waste.

The technology offers a 65% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared with methods such as incinerating waste with energy recovery, Fuenix said, and it’s seeking additional partnerships to expand.

The approach has the potential to address a broad market and compete with petroleum products, “something that the vast majority of mechanically recycled plastics cannot do,” said Maarten Bakker, a professor of resources and recycling at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

“It’s a promising technology for certain waste streams that cannot now be processed mechanically,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Proper in Amsterdam at eproper@bloomberg.net

 

 

Edited by Tom Kirkman
Fixed typo in thread title

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These reprocessing facilities tend to be large, and need  large volumes of raw-material inputs to keep running.  Thus for smaller cities you will find that there is not enough scrap plastic to fully charge the converter machinery.  That then implies trucking in large amounts of plastic scrap from yet other cities, which implies all these trucks on the highways and city streets moving that bulk material around. The one under construction in Indiana looks like it will need to obtain scrap from Chicago to keep running fully. That is a lot of trucks.

It strikes me that the optimum solution is a much smaller scale of plant, sized to handle the load from just that smaller city.  Then only city "recycling"-sized trucks run to the plant to offload, and you don't have these semi-trailers loaded up with large bundles of scrap coming in from other cities.  A modular converter plant would be a big hit, and lots could be built to distribute to smaller cities around the country, and exported.  That would be a nice business venture! 

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21 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

These reprocessing facilities tend to be large, and need  large volumes of raw-material inputs to keep running.  Thus for smaller cities you will find that there is not enough scrap plastic to fully charge the converter machinery.  That then implies trucking in large amounts of plastic scrap from yet other cities, which implies all these trucks on the highways and city streets moving that bulk material around. The one under construction in Indiana looks like it will need to obtain scrap from Chicago to keep running fully. That is a lot of trucks.

It strikes me that the optimum solution is a much smaller scale of plant, sized to handle the load from just that smaller city.  Then only city "recycling"-sized trucks run to the plant to offload, and you don't have these semi-trailers loaded up with large bundles of scrap coming in from other cities.  A modular converter plant would be a big hit, and lots could be built to distribute to smaller cities around the country, and exported.  That would be a nice business venture! 

Maybe - but then you need to move the oil from all these small cities to a central processing location.  I suppose if a plastic scrap truck cubes out long before it weighs out, then transporting oil instead of scrap would reduce the number of trucks on the road, but that doesn't imply lower overall cost.  I doubt tanker trucks are as cheap to built & operate as bulk haulers. 

Then there are economies of scale.  Much of the appeal of a large plant is that it reduces overhead: a similarly sized staff can just as easily run a large plant as it can a small plant.  Fewer, larger components means less maintenance.  Etc. 

Then there are staffing issues.  Where are we going to get the extra staff for all these tiny plants?  Do the necessary experienced professionals want to live in remote locations, or would it be easier to co-locate them within driving distance of a decent suburb? 

Then there's economic stability.  What do you do with a small plant when a particular town suffers economic decline?  What do you do when a community experiences rapid growth, outstripping its plant's capacity?  Do we really want to tie a specific capital investment to a single, small community?  How much value is there in mitigating risk with a central facility that can draw from many communities?

What are your thoughts? 

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10 minutes ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

What are your thoughts? 

The technical process converts scrap plastic directly into gasoline.  Presumably that can be sold and used right there, no trucking needed!

As for the rest (size and staffing, etc)  hey all of life is imperfect and is a set of compromises. Who cares if a larger size plant can do more with less?  Remember that the plant is getting its input feedstock, the scrap, for free, or is being paid to take it.  Then the plant gets paid for the output gasoline.  Hard to see how that deal goes wrong.  OK, so maybe you can "make even more money" if the plant is larger.  You could also "make more money" by clear-cutting a forest, although it is likely not the best idea.  

Also, if the plant is truly modular, its components will sit on sub-section frames, which can be jacked up and slid onto flatbed trucks and removed with minimal fuss.  Sounds about right to me! I think you build a plant to fit the circumstances, and if you need more capacity, well then just add another plant.  The over-arching value is in getting rid of all that heavy truck traffic, the noise, pollution, and risk to children that heavy trucks inherently bring.  Cheers.

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(edited)

3 minutes ago, Douglas Buckland said:

Jobs in the small town/small plant?

Depends on what you mean by "small town."  My guess is that a facility like this would be hard pressed to be built for a volume smaller than what you would get from a municipality of 100,000.  It might require a larger population base. Either way, finding operating personnel in the context of that size town should be easy enough to do.  Cheers.

Edited by Jan van Eck
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