Nova Chemicals and Enerken to collaborate on waste-to-ethylene technology

MOSCOW (MRC) -- NOVA Chemicals Corp. (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) and Enerkem Inc. (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) have recently entered into a joint development agreement to explore turning non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal waste into ethylene, a basic building block of plastics, reported Chemical Engineering.

Working together, the companies will research advanced recycling technology to transform hard-to-recycle municipal waste, including items such as plastics, household waste, and construction materials, into ethylene at full commercial scale. Ethylene, produced from waste, would advance a plastics circular economy and help meet consumer brand goals for recycled content in packaging.

Advanced recycling technologies are a necessary component of moving to zero plastic waste by creating valuable new feedstocks from post-use plastics that cannot be easily mechanically recycled. The quality of polymers produced with advanced recycling products is indistinguishable from those made from 100 percent virgin, fossil-based feedstocks.

“We are excited to work with Enerkem to create innovative, sustainable solutions for a plastics circular economy,” said Todd Karran, president and CEO, NOVA Chemicals. “Our R&D teams will collaborate to develop game changing technology to push the boundaries for recycling waste to create new feedstocks and bring value to the environment, economy and society.”

Enerkem is the first company in the world to produce renewable methanol and ethanol from non-recyclable, non-compostable municipal solid waste at full commercial scale. Its current technologies replace the use of fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas to produce sustainable transportation fuels and chemicals that are used in a broad range of everyday products.

“We are delighted to team up with NOVA Chemicals to collaborate on new technology for waste-to-ethylene feedstock to solve one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues,” said Dominique Boies, CEO and CFO, Enerkem. “This strategic partnership will allow us to explore the development of new products and expand our offering in pursuit of the circular economy.”

Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Enerkem’s Vice President of Technology Strategy & Deployment, added “With over 20 years of technology development, we have built a robust gasification platform to turn waste and biomass into fuels and chemicals with high carbon efficiency. Enerkem’s technology has the scale and versatility to supply raw materials for the circular and decarbonized chemical industry that is being created now. Not just for plastics but also for many other chemical ingredients that are vital for everyday life.”

NOVA Chemicals is committed to enabling 100 percent of plastics packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030; and 100 percent of plastics packaging is re-used, recycled or recovered by 2040. “This research is one of the ways NOVA Chemicals is innovating to recapture the value of plastic products and create a world free of plastic waste,” said Karran. “Working together, we can shape a world that is better tomorrow than it is today,” he added.

As MRC wrote earlier, Nova Chemicals declared force majeure on supplies from its Joffre C4 (butene) linear low density polyethylene facility near Red Deer in Alberta, Canada, a company spokeswoman said in an email July 14 to S&P Global. The declaration will cover all C4 LLDPE resins produced at the facility effective July 13, the company also said in a letter to customers.

We remind that NOVA Chemicals has expanded ethylene production capacity by 20% at its cracker in Corunna, Ontario from the previous capacity of about 839,000 tpy. The expansion occurred between 2014 and 2018 and was part of a wave of expansions and upgrades to NOVA's existing facilities near Sarnia, Ontario. Other upgrades in the plan included a debottlenecking of the Moore low-density polyethylene (LDPE) line and a retrofit of the Moore high-density polyethylene (HDPE) line.

Ethylene is the main feedstock for the producion of polyethylene (PE).

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports.

NOVA Chemicals Corporation is a plastics and chemical company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and is wholly-owned ultimately by Mubadala Investment Company of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

ALBIS separates compounding business

MOSCOW (MRC) -- German thermoplastics distributor ALBIS has split off its compounding operations as a separate business, named MOCOM, said Sustainableplastics.

Ian Mills, former chief sales officer at ALBIS, is heading the compounding business, which has 700 employees and locations in Germany, the US, and China.

Horst Klink, former ALBIS vice president, heads the distribution business, which will continue to operate as ALBIS, with a staff of 450 people and 24 locations worldwide.

ALBIS and MOCOM are part of Hamburg-based Otto-Krahn Group, which also includes specialty chemicals distributor KRAHN Chemie and plastics recycler WIPAG.

Prior to the split, Albis Plastic posted sales of 1 billion euros in 2019. Otto Krahn Group was founded in 1909 by its namesake as a trading company dealing in rubber materials and products and related goods.

As MRC infomed earlier, Russia's output of chemical products rose in June 2020 by 2.6% year on year. However, production of basic chemicals increased year on year by 4.9% in the first six months of 2020. According to the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation, polymers in primary form accounted for the greatest increase in the output in January-June. Production of benzene was 106,000 tonnes in June 2020, compared to 110,000 tonnes a month earlier. Overall output of this product reached 721,000 tonnes over the stated period, up by 3.9% year on year.

Formosa Plastics agrees to delay work on Louisiana complex until 2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A federal judge has approved Formosa Plastics’ agreement not to start construction work on its USD9.4 billion petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana after opponents filed a preliminary injunction on 14 July to block work on the site, said Chemweek.

The company agreed Thursday not to build a construction dock on the Mississippi River or work near wetlands or five areas that may contain unmarked graves. The agreement will protect the site until the resolution of a lawsuit challenging federal approvals that was filed by opponents in January. The groups plan to file a motion for summary judgment asking US District Judge Randall Moss to invalidate permits issued last year by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Now that Formosa Plastics has agreed not to disturb graves and wetlands on the site through February 2021, we can focus on this project’s deeply flawed approval process,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit conservation organization. Formosa Plastics’ proposed petrochemical complex, called the Sunshine Project after the nearby Sunshine Bridge, is expected to comprise 14 plants on a 2,400-acre site along the Mississippi River, which the company acquired in 2018.

Louisiana groups and national environmental organizations earlier this year filed two lawsuits challenging the Formosa Plastics project, one over its federal permits, represented by the Center for Biological Diversity, and one over its state air permit, represented by Earthjustice.

Formosa Plastics broke ground on the project in late March after receiving final permits but has now agreed to limit its construction activities until February 2021. The company plans to build the complex in two phases over 10 years. The first phase would include a 1.2-million metric tons/year ethylene plant using ethane as feedstock, with downstream facilities that will produce high-density polyethylene (HDPE), linear low-density polyethylene, and ethylene glycol (EG). A propane dehydrogenation plant and a polypropylene facility are also planned.

Phase two would include a second ethane cracker with similar capacity, another HDPE plant, and a facility producing low-density polyethylene as well as a second EG plant. The project was first announced in 2015.

As MRC informed earlier, Formosa Petrochemical slashed runs at its 540,000-bpd Mailiao oil refinery to about 68%, down from 80%, following last week’s shutdown of a secondary unit due to a fire. Even before the fire, Formosa had previously said that its gasoline exports this year would be about half of its 2019 volumes as the pandemic has hit demand from overseas markets. Any impact from a reduction in Formosa’s gasoline shipments would be mitigated by ample supplies in the region, said a trader who tracks petrol. Two of the units with a total capacity of 1.73 million tons per year (MMtpy) are operating at full capacity and the largest unit at 1.2 MMtpy is running at about 90% of its capacity, said Lin. The 1.2 million tpy cracker is scheduled to undergo maintenance in August.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

SIBUR diversifies routes for polymer product supplies to China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- SIBUR has diversified its export supplies of polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) to China by leveraging Russia’s rail transportation infrastructure, as per the company's press release.

Until 2020, the company mainly relied on sea transportation to ship its products to the region. Today, thanks to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, products from its Tobolsk and Tomsk sites are also supplied to Chongqing and Chengdu by rail.

Shipments by rail enable SIBUR to deliver products to customers in just 10 days compared to 30 days required for shipments by sea, while also helping to mitigate the risks of negative macro developments and expand our customer base in the central and western regions of China.

Fu Wei, Teamleader of Basic Polymer Sales, SIBUR International Trading (Shanghai) Co.,Ltd said: "The completion of SIBUR’s large-scale investment project, ZapSibNeftekhim, allowed us to boost supplies of PP and PE to China. By diversifying our supply routes, we are now able to meet the needs of customers all over the country and offer them high-quality products at competitive prices, to be delivered in the shortest possible time."

As MRC reproted earlier, SIBUR Holdinghas shut its PE plants for a planned maintenance on 23 May 2020. Based in Russia, the turnaround includes both old and new PE plants of SIBUR which consists of Tomskneftekhim with 270,000 tons/year of low density polyethylene (LDPE) unit, as well as ZapSibNeftekhim with a 700,000 tons/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) unit and 800,000 tons/year linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)/HDPE swing plant. All PE plants were expected to remain off-stream for about 20 days.

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

SIBUR is the largest integrated petrochemicals company in Russia. The Group sells its petrochemical products on the Russian and international markets in two business segments: Olefins & Polyolefins (polypropylene, polyethylene, BOPP films, etc.) Plastics, Elastomers & Intermediates (synthetic rubbers, EPS, PET, etc.). SIBUR’s petrochemicals business utilises mainly own feedstock, which is produced by the Midstream segment using by-products purchased from oil and gas companies. More than 26,000 employees working in SIBUR contribute to the success of customers engaged in the chemical, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), automotive, construction, energy and other industries in 80 countries worldwide. In 2018, SIBUR reported revenue of USD 9.1 billion and adjusted EBITDA of USD 3.3 billion.

Encina finds the future of BTX in plastic waste

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Encina (The Woodlands, Texas) was founded to produce benzene, toluene, and xylenes (BTX) from coal, but the company made a sharp change in direction last October after discovering that an alternative feedstock - plastic waste - dramatically improved the economics of its process, reported Chemweek.

Advanced plans to build a coal-based facility in Wyoming have since been scrapped, and Encina will soon announce the location for a USD255-million, 100,000-metric tons/year plastics-to-BTX facility. Construction is slated to begin during the first quarter of 2021, and additional plants are in the pipeline.

“Our business plan is to have at least five operating facilities with expansion capabilities (located) globally to tackle the plastic problem,” says David Schwedel, founder and executive director. “We’re looking to do an IPO in about two years, and we’re positioning ourselves to be the go-to waste-plastics-to-chemical/fuels company in the world. That is our focus.”

Encina’s process is based on pyrolysis technology developed to produce clean coal and later adapted to produce activated carbon. Encina licensed the technology with the idea of optimizing the yield of a by-product - pyrolysis gas, the aromatics-rich hydrocarbon typically produced by the steam cracking of naphtha. Working with engineering and construction firm Worley, Encina modeled the yield of BTX from coal to 6-8%, and in 2018, the company announced it would build a BTX/activated carbon production facility in Wyoming.

Encina’s engineers continued to refine the process, and while looking for a way to make it carbon neutral, they began experimenting with plastic waste. If plastic could be included on the feedslate without reducing yield, they reasoned, it would be recycled, offsetting a portion of the emissions generated. In fact, they discovered that the more plastic waste they added, the greater the yield of BTX.

Faced with this surprising result, Encina reconsidered its plans, says Schwedel. As originally configured, the plant would have processed about 4.2 million metric tons of coal per year, or about 480 metric tons per hour, to produce about 100,000-metric tons/year of BTX, for a yield of 6-8%. By comparison, completely replacing coal with plastic waste pushed the yield to 55% while eliminating the production of activated carbon and steeply lowering the capital cost.

“It costs you $550 million to build the (coal-based) plant,” notes Schwedel. “With plastics, you can build a 20-ton-per-hour facility at about half the cost and in three-quarters of the time but get the same [volume] of BTX. So that was it, we had to go in this direction.”

Encina negotiated an exit from its lease on the site in Wyoming, which had been chosen for its proximity to the coal deposits of the Powder River Basin. A new location along the Mississippi River was identified, the idea being to receive plastic waste by water and likewise to deliver BTX to the markets of Texas and Louisiana. However, the company broadened its search after hiring PLG Consulting. “You want to be as close to the feedstock as possible,” notes Schwedel. “Most of the (plastic waste) feedstock in the US tends to be in the northeast part of the country, so we’re looking strongly in that area now.”

The US Northeast already shows signs of becoming a petrochemical hub, owing to low-cost feedstock ethane supplies in the region. Shell is building a $6-billion ethylene project in Monaca, Pennsylvania; PTT Global is mulling a similar project in Ohio; and local business development groups are actively pursuing related investments. A plastics-to-BTX facility would neatly complement these projects by producing the aromatics that steam crackers consuming ethane cannot.

Securing a reliable, economical supply of suitable feedstock is one of the greatest hurdles to widespread plastics recycling. The volume of plastic waste produced is enormous, but it must be aggregated from a myriad of sources as small as the bins set out by individual households. This fragmentation compounds the fundamental problem of quality, which varies widely with respect to both resin type and purity, so that sorting and cleaning requirements become important contributors to cost. The result is that very little plastic is currently recycled, and most of that is polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the more easily recycled plastics bearing codes 1 and 2.

“Plastics 1 and 2 get all the love, while plastics 3-7 go to the landfill,” Schwedel observes. “Fortunately for us, our process works best on plastics 3-7.” That’s because pyrolysis is a brute force technology that is relatively insensitive to feedstock quality. Whereas other chemical recycling technologies might dismantle a polymer, freeing the monomers, pyrolysis tears the polymer apart, producing a range of basic hydrocarbons. More of the energy consumed to produce the original polymer is lost, but this shortcoming is offset by the ability of pyrolysis to handle unsorted plastics, difficult-to-recycle plastics, and plastics contaminated with other materials.

“We have letters of intent in place with feedstock suppliers that get us today to 100% of what our current US plant expectations are, and we believe that we can double that within the next 6 to 8 months,” says Schwedel. The company recently hired a veteran of the plastics recycling industry, Mylinda Jacobsen, as its global director of purchasing. “Mylinda’s market expertise, industry connections, and the ability to develop strategic relationships are key to shaping the growth trajectory of Encina.”

Encina is not the only company planning to recycle plastics using pyrolysis, but Schwedel says its process is uniquely flexible, owing to the catalysts used. “In our case, not only can we make BTX, but we’re having conversations with companies now about polypropylene solutions, where it’s a full circular loop for them.” A “plug-and-play” capability allows Encina to convert about 20–30% of its end product to refinery-grade propylene he says.

“Our goal is to help solve [the] waste plastics problem,” Schwedel adds. “We will continue to evolve as we look at aggregating technologies that can beneficiate plastics into a multitude of other products downstream on a global basis.”

Benzene is the main feedstock for the production of sytrene monomer (SM), which, in its turn, is the feedstock for producing polystryrene (PS).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, May total estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics in Russia was 29,990 tonnes versus 41,780 tonnes a year earlier, down by 28% year on year. Russia's overall estimated consumption decreased in the first five months of 2020 by 10% year on year to 186,670 tonnes.