Neste is announcing the conclusion of its first series of trials into processing liquefied waste plastic with chemical recycling technology at its Porvoo refinery in Finland.
The oil refining company says it has processed about 800 tons of liquefied waste plastic over the last two years – roughly the same amount generated annually by a European city with 500,000 people.
Speaking to PackagingInsights, a Neste spokesperson says the company’s first series of trial runs were successful, “but to strengthen our capabilities for larger-scale production, further trials with larger volumes are still needed, and runs with increased volumes will therefore continue in 2022.”
“We are laying the foundation for replacing crude oil-based raw materials with liquefied waste plastic and strengthening circularity together with our customers. Based on the successful trials, we can conclude that liquefied waste plastics is a viable alternative for fossil raw material,” says Markku Korvenranta, executive vice president of oil products at Neste.
Chemical recycling and its challenges
Neste asserts there is strong interest in feedstocks from recycled raw materials in the polymers and chemicals market.
Mercedes Alonso, executive vice president for renewable polymers and chemicals at Neste, says: “By processing liquefied waste plastic and upgrading waste into valuable resources, we thereby not only contribute to combating the plastic pollution challenge, but we also provide chemical and polymer companies with the means to advance the circular economy.”
“To do so at a larger scale going forward, we will also require regulatory support. On the one hand, this includes the acceptance of chemical recycling as a complementary technology to achieve ambitious recycling targets. On the other hand, we need similarly ambitious targets for increasing the use of more [environmentally] sustainable materials.”
In the course of the trial runs, Neste has been able to upgrade liquefied waste plastic to drop-in solutions for plastic production and develop industrial-scale capabilities to upgrade recycled feedstocks.
While Neste cannot comment on technological details for competitive reasons, the series of trial runs began in 2020, when it first processed liquefied waste plastic at an industrial scale.
“Prior to the trials, we carried out extensive research in addition to conducting comprehensive analysis with regards to production assets and processes to ensure the feasibility and safety of processing this new recycled raw material,” explains the spokesperson.
Advancements in advanced recycling
Demand for recycled plastic materials is skyrocketing as companies seek to boost their environmental sustainability credentials and lower the use of fossil fuels. Chemical recycling technologies, which can reprocess hard-to-recycle plastics that normally end up in landfills or incineration, are an increasingly promising solution.
Advanced recycling continues to flourish in 2021, despite criticism from NGOs and media reports challenging the cost-effectiveness and environmental performance of these technologies. Rabobank’s latest report on advanced recycling has documented the increasing market activity.
However, the supply of liquid plastics needed for projects like Neste’s is still far from adequate, the spokesperson says. “Chemical recycling is a technology still in development, and we are working toward developing and establishing large-scale capacities. As of today, the available liquefaction capacities are indeed limited.”
“For the trial runs, we have been working together with various value chain partners on sourcing liquefied waste plastic. Neste is currently also planning to establish a joint venture to advance thermochemical liquefaction technology and capacities.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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