The Plastic2Olefins project was set up in order to find a solution to the issue of unsorted plastic waste not being recycled and a large amount of valuable carbon feedstock going to landfill and producing greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of Plastic2Olefins is to start the journey towards high-temperature pyrolysis for circular olefins production which will allow more plastic to be recycled and close the loop for producing plastic out of recycled olefins.
The beginning point for this project is to design and build a new plant where a demonstration for recycling unsorted plastic waste will take place. This plant will be digitalized and run on 100% renewable energy which will optimize the plant’s carbon footprint. This new pyrolysis plant is an incredible breakthrough, as so far only low-to-medium temperature pyrolysis was taking place and this process involved breaking down the plastic into oil and then heating it further in the steam cracker furnace to produce olefins. The Plastic2Olefins project will take pyrolysis a step further and use high-temperature pyrolysis which will break the plastic down into olefins, bypassing the oil stage, and this will allow the olefins to flow directly into the steam cracker furnace. The result of this process will be the olefins produced in the high-temperature pyrolysis being re-used in plastic, rather than lost to the environment, portraying the benefits of the project which closes the loop of plastic recycling.
The issues around this project are that it is the first time this will have been done, as gas treatment and integration are still a large challenge. Therefore, Plastic2Olefins will be working with experts from industry, academia and research institutions to make this project possible. This will also involve a two-step approach where they will use a scale pilot plant at Repsol Technology Lab to test all the components are optimized. The second step will be to move the process to the full-scale plant also at Repsol.
The Technical Advisor for Circular Economy Process Design at Repsol and Project Coordinator, Rebeca Yuste said: “The project’s goal is to significantly cut down greenhouse gas emissions over the product’s entire lifecycle, with an expected reduction of 70-80% compared to incineration and current plastics recycling methods.”
This showcases how important this technological step forwards will be, and it will also be a very important milestone for the EU’s aim of climate neutrality by 2050, as it will begin to carve a pathway for the industrial sector to begin replacing fossil material streams with yield material streams.