Repsol, Axens, and IFPEN introduce new process to enhance chemical recycling of plastic waste

Repsol, Axens, and IFPEN introduce new process to enhance chemical recycling of plastic waste

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Repsol, Axens, a worldwide technology provider and IFPEN, the renowned French research and innovation player in the field of energy, have developed a pioneering and patented process to enhance the chemical recycling of plastic waste and boost circular materials production, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The RewindTM Mix process removes impurities such as silicon, chlorine, diolefins, and metals from the plastics pyrolysis oils produced, allowing the direct and undiluted feed to petrochemical units.

Pyrolysis is one of the most promising pathways for the chemical recycling of plastic waste, which otherwise would end up incinerated or in landfills, and the production of food-grade, low-carbon footprint, recycled plastics.

This new pyrolysis oil upgrading process will expand its deployment and allow the massive introduction of recycled pyrolysis oil in existing steam cracking assets.

Chemical recycling now represents a very innovative solution complementary to mechanical recycling. Polyolefins from petrochemistry represent about half of the 400 Mt/y world plastic production and a major target in terms of plastic recycling. Today, mechanical recycling faces limitations due to feedstock quality (mix of polymers and impurities content) that directly impact product quality and potential applications, in particular for food-grade use.

The RewindTM Mix process has been developed at the Repsol Technology Lab and IFPEN facilities, with extensive pilot plant testing of representative pyrolysis oils, reproducing the exact conditions of the future industrial plant. It can advantageously be integrated within the existing petrochemical units.

The process relies upon Axens’ proven industrial technologies and catalysts and on the long experience of the 3 partners in the field of the petrochemical industry. Based on this solid basis and the extensive pilot testing, the partners will now study the first industrial application in a Repsol facility, while Axens will commercialize the technology through licensing.

Repsol has a long track record of applying circularity in its products. In 2015, Repsol was the first company to reintroduce oil from chemical recycling of plastic waste not suited for conventional mechanical recycling on an industrial scale at its Puertollano industrial complex. In 2019, Repsol started to sell circular polyolefins under the ISCC PLUS certification. The company is committed to a circular economy as one of the main pillars of the transformation of its industrial complexes into large multi-energy hubs, capable of using different kinds of waste and converting them into low carbon products. This project supports the recent announcement in the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan of the company's ambition to use four million metric tons of waste per year besides recycling the equivalent of 20% of its polyolefins production by 2030.

As MRC informed previously, earlier this month, Axens and Sulzer Chemtech (GTC Technology) formed an alliance to license an advanced process for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) naphtha processing.

Ethylene and propylene are the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 744,130 tonnes in the first four month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. At the same time, PP deliveries to the Russian market were 523,900 tonnes in January-April 2021, up by 55% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased, whereas shipments of PP random copolymers decreased.

Manufacturing industry in Canada continues to lose millions because of border issues due Covid-19

Manufacturing industry in Canada continues to lose millions because of border issues  due Covid-19

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The survey was conducted by the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association (CTMA), in partnership with the Canadian Association of Moldmakers, (CAMM), Automate Canada, and the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA), said Canplastics.

It was the second conducted by the groups to measure the effects of border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic within the manufacturing industry. This updated study, which received 91 responses, was to compare the results to the previous survey about common border crossing issues that have been experienced by those in the industry, who have identified that many of their businesses rely on travel between the U.S. and Canada. The first survey was taken in December 2020.

The severity of the issue continues, the new survey finds. “In December 2020, an average of 70 per cent of employers reported quarantine orders for employees and visitors and denial of entry by visitors into Canada,” the groups said. “In May 2021, this increased dramatically to 87 per cent. Sixty-nine per cent have experienced loss of contracts due to border issues."

“It’s clear from the increased participation in the survey that the issues at the border have left manufacturers with high risk for current contracts and potentially irreversible damage to customer relationships,” said Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund, president, CAMM.

The financial impact varies among respondents. Although some participants were reluctant to share financial information due to issues with confidentiality, the majority noted there were undeniable losses from 2021 because of the interruption of COVID-19-related protocols. Of those who commented, 64.9 per cent stated a combined actual financial impact of USD100,000 to USD10,000,000 for 2020; and 65.4 per cent revealed an estimated financial impact of USD100,000 to more than USD5,000,000 for 2021.

Although most of the border crossing happens at the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel (more than 80 per cent), other crossings in the survey results include Sarnia Bluewater Bridge, Fort Erie Peace Bridge, Lester B Pearson International Airport, Niagara Rainbow Bridge and Cornwall Seaway International Bridge.

"The current restrictions governing travel across the Canadian/U.S. border do not fully acknowledge or consider the growing concerns among manufacturers,” said Sophia De Luca, Operations Manager, NIA. “These survey results provide further evidence to suggest that such restrictions need to adopt more specific guidelines that recognize circumstances for safe, and timely travel of manufacturers, technicians, or specified service workers across the border for maintenance of ongoing industrial projects."

The Associations recommend government officials provide a clearer definition of “essential workers” to help Canada Border Services Agency personnel better understand the guidelines; provide more detail on documentation requirements and implement rapid testing at ports of entry to reduce quarantine periods for individuals travelling across the border to perform essential services.

"The information obtained in this survey sends a clear message to government officials that we need to move forward with some decisive action and find an immediate solution to these issues,” said Robert Cattle, executive director, CTMA. “The announcement made on June 21 that vaccinated Canadians can now return to Canada without quarantine is just a first step and we must continue to apply pressure to put in place measures for safe travel for both U.S and Canadian citizens between our two countries."

Earlier it was reported that the American company Kraton said that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted an emergency exemption for the use of its new sulfonated polymer, which quickly inactivates the coronavirus. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency permit for the use of the polymer in the states of the United States, Georgia, Utah and Minnesota for specific applications to protect against the COVID-19 virus.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 744,130 tonnes in the first four month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. At the same time, PP deliveries to the Russian market were 523,900 tonnes in January-April 2021, up by 55% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased, whereas shipments of PP random copolymers decreased.

MOL updates strategy of transition towards a sustainable future

MOL updates strategy of transition towards a sustainable future

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The MOL transformation story began in 2016 when it was one of the first within the oil and gas sector to admit that there were gloomy days ahead and that it was essential to begin the transformation. To plot out the path to a low-carbon future, the company published MOL Group 2030+. Five years after the launch of that transformation plan, the Hungarian energy company has revised its goals with an updated strategy, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing.

"Five years ago, we recognized that the role of oil and gas companies was going to change significantly," Gabriel Szabo, Group Downstream Executive Vice President, MOL, says. "That is the rationale behind the energy transformation that most oil and gas companies are going through. The critical aspect of this transformation is timing. There is a clear business case behind all the new business models we are targeting, but they are heavily dependent on technology and innovation. However, in many instances, these technologies are still not proven at production volumes."

The revised strategy offers an unchanged vision of the structural, long-term decline in fossil motor fuel demand in Europe. Facing these market dynamics, MOL will continue and accelerate its fuel-to-chemicals transformation in its downstream operations to grow to become a leading sustainable chemicals company in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

This revised strategy has been shaped by two strong learning points from last year: the reduced demand for fossil fuels caused by the global pandemic, and the increased desire from all stakeholders for sustainability. "The lessening demand came as no great surprise, as we projected this in 2016 in our original strategy. However, that was only on spreadsheets and graphs. Last year, we faced reality much sooner than we expected, with a 20% fall in demand for our products. When it comes to sustainability, the swing towards a carbon-free Europe is going to accelerate. If I am asked the difference between our original strategy and the latest one, I would answer that the original strategy is still valid but has been accelerated. We have added a sense of urgency to our transition that we think is needed,” Szabo says.

The top-level changes for downstream operations: MOL's vision is that by 2050 it will be an efficient, sustainable chemical-focused company also powering mobility. This strategy has three distinct strands: improved operational efficiency, managing the fuel transformation and a value chain extension.

"The cost-competitive advantage will play a vital role in future businesses and new sustainable businesses," Szabo adds. "This is an integral part of our baseline operations, and the cost is something that we control today while we plan for the future landscape of the oil and gas business. In the meantime, we must keep our competitive cost advantage.

"The second pillar is the fuel transformation itself. Once we are over the pandemic effects, we still believe that there will be growth in demand for fossil fuels for - there will be a sharp decline after that. With that in mind, we plan to convert around 2 MM metric t (tonnes) of fossil fuel to other chemicals, such as monomers and propylene, and we would like to go further in the polymer value chain.

"Finally, there is the value chain extension, where we will look at how we extend our current value chain in compounding and recycling. Within that, we are open to inorganic growth, as well. For the whole story, we are planning to spend $4.5 B until 2030, and we are also relying on the funds from the recovery and resiliency budget from the EU."

Circular economy and its relevance to the energy sector: MOL will increasingly integrate circular technologies into its core businesses, using bio- and waste-based streams in production, scaling up recycling and utilizing CCS opportunities with a clear focus on materially reducing the segment's CO2 footprint.

One of the successful circular projects that MOL has been operating for almost a decade is tire recycling. Back in 2012, MOL opened and successfully operated a pilot plant for rubber bitumen with an annual capacity of 5,000 metric t at the Zala Site. In response to increased demand, MOL began building a new plant in the spring of 2019 in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, that was completed last October. Each year, the recycling of 500,000 used tires—around 3,000 metric t of rubber scrap, or 8%–10% of the annual domestic tire waste - is used to produce rubber bitumen. The new plant can produce about 96 metric tpd of rubber bitumen.

Another long-running initiative is turning used cooking oil into biofuels. Since the project began in 2011, MOL has collected 1,900 metric t of used cooking oil and recycled it to produce biofuel. "This is a very innovative approach using cooking oil or even animal fat to get high-quality gas at the end of the transformation process," Szabo continues.

When it comes to plastics, MOL has a sister company in Germany called Aurora Kunststoffe, based in Neuenstein. The company has focused on producing so-called recompounds, recycled plastic granulates, which are of the same quality as virgin material. The production of plastic parts results in about 5% rejects. Aurora purchases these industrial production residues and uses them to produce a new, high-quality raw material in an environmentally friendly and resource-conserving manner. The goods can either be returned to the supplier via a contract service or sold to another customer in the plastics processing industry.

One of the biggest challenges is the plague of single-use plastics or polymers. For the packaging material, at present, only around 10% of the polymers used are recycled. There are three methods for recycling plastic: mechanical, chemical and solvents.

"With mechanical recycling, the plastic is ground, but the result is not virgin polymers; it is a B or C grade material that cannot be used for food packaging," Szabo says. "Then you have chemical recycling, where you try to crack the polymers' molecules with a lot of energy, and then you put it to the new value streams. The challenge here is the amount of energy required. The third option is solvent-based, and that is the route we have taken. We have partnered with APK of Germany, which has developed an innovative recycling technology named Newcycling that can be applied to a wide variety of mixed plastic types and process them into high-quality recyclates. The first Newcycling plant using APK's core technology is now being set up at APK's headquarter in Merseburg. The technology is a solvent-based process that enables the selective separation of polymers in mixed plastic waste. The result is pure granulates that have virgin-like properties. In this way, we give packaging a second life in its original application.”

The growing importance of carbon capture and storage? Carbon capture and storage may not be a new technology or concept, but it has been the subject of renewed global interest and attention in recent years and is something that MOL has experience in from its upstream operations.

"We have empty gas and oil reservoirs in our core countries of Hungary and Croatia, and we are quite experienced with utilizing CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in our projects," Szabo explains. "We know how to tackle and treat CO2. In our refining applications, there is a significant amount of CO2 emitted. We are capturing these molecules, and we want to transport those to the reservoirs to pump through them. The annual Scope 1 or Scope 2 footprints of the MOL Group are around 5.6 MM metric t of CO2, and there are empty reservoirs with 400 MM metric t of CO2 capacity. This gives us two decades for storing the CO2 emissions we are currently producing with our assets.

"In Scope 1 emissions, we have pledged to decrease CO2 emissions by 20% by 2030. This may seem like a modest ambition when you see the oil majors in the media committing themselves to be net-zero in a rather relatively short time. But there is still no technology behind those promises. What we have is absolute confidence and the transparency that 20% is feasible by 2030. We can achieve this through utilizing carbon capture and storage and improving our energy consumption. The less you consume, the cheaper it is, and the fewer emissions you produce, the fewer hydrocarbons you burn.”

Szabo concludes, “This has the dual benefit of making you cost-efficient, your production gets more affordable, and your emissions footprint is lower. Scope 3 is a difficult topic but considering that we are about to convert 2 MM metric t of fossil fuel, it will dramatically reduce the Scope 3 admissions. It will reduce the total emissions of the MOL Group by roughly 20%. With that transformation, we are not just getting ready for the future, and we also aim to be more sustainable."

As MRC reported earlier, in March 2021, MOL became a biofuel producer through the realization of an investment in the Danube Refinery. Bio feedstock will be co-processed together with fossil materials increasing the renewable share of fuels and reducing up to 200,000 tons /year CO2 emission without negatively affecting fuel quality.

Ethylene and propylene are the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 744,130 tonnes in the first four month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Shipments of all PE grades increased. At the same time, PP deliveries to the Russian market were 523,900 tonnes in January-April 2021, up by 55% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased, whereas shipments of PP random copolymers decreased.

MOL is the largest Hungarian oil, gas and petrochemical group, engaged in exploration and production, transportation of hydrocarbons, as well as the operation of a network of trunk gas pipelines. TVK is a 100% subsidiary of MOL. TVK manufactures HDPE, LDPE, and PP.

Russian oil companies will not supply oil to Naftan in the third quarter

Russian oil companies will not supply oil to Naftan in the third quarter

MOSCOW (MRC) - In the third quarter, Russian oil companies will not supply oil to the Novopolotsk refinery (Naftan OJSC), Interfax reports.

According to the Russian oil export schedule, in the third quarter there are no supplies to the Novopolotsk refinery (Naftan OJSC), only 2.36 million tons to the Mozyr refinery. In the second quarter, the schedule indicated deliveries to the Novopolotsk refinery and the Mozyr refinery in the amount of 2.25 million tons each.

On April 19, the US Treasury canceled the moratorium on sanctions against the Belneftekhim concern, its trade office in the United States and its seven member enterprises, in particular the Naftan refinery, which had been in effect since October 2015. According to the Ministry of Finance, until the end of the 45-day period on June 3, 2021, only those operations with these companies that are necessary to complete cooperation with them were allowed.

Earlier it was reported that large Russian oil companies have not supplied oil to the Novopolotsk refinery since the beginning of May. The main shippers are Lukoil, Gazprom Neft and Rosneft, with the latter two increasing shipments from last month.

The main suppliers to Naftan in April were: Rosneft - 339 thousand tons, Surgutneftegaz - 204 thousand tons, Tatneft - about 100 thousand tons, Bashneft - 32 thousand tons, Russneft - less than 10 thousand tons.

Earlier it was reported that 2020 turned out to be a difficult year for Naftan due to the lack of Russian oil supplies in the same volume. The capacities of the petrochemical complex were used by half. The company had to diversify supplies and deliver oil by tankers from Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Although the "alternative" was supplied in small quantities and cost more than Russian Urals, the Novopolotsk complex calls these investments "investments in the future."

The Polymir plant, which is part of Naftan OJSC, produces a wide range of chemical products such as high-pressure polyethylene, acrylic fibers, organic synthesis products, hydrocarbon fractions, etc. Polymir was founded in 1968. In the process of creating a production and technical base, technologies were used by the largest foreign firms in England, Japan, Germany, Italy (Courtaulds, Asahi Chemical Co. Ltd, Kanematsu Gosho, SNIA BPD, etc.), as well as the development of research institutes and design institutes of the CIS countries. The annual design capacity of LDPE production is 130 thousand tons.

According to the ICIS-MRC Price Report, Polymir a week earlier started resuming LDPE production at the second stage after a month's shutdown for repairs. But, according to buyers, shipments of polyethylene to the domestic market have not been resumed this week. Prices of Belarusian LDPE for the domestic market have remained at the same level since May: Brb3,441-3,584/tonne FCA, excluding VAT.

OJSC "Naftan" is one of the largest oil refineries in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It was put into operation in 1963, the enterprise was corporatized in 2002. The state share in OJSC "Naftan" is 99.83%, the rest of the shares belong to the individual employees of the enterprise. In 2008, a large petrochemical enterprise Polymir was included in Naftan. Naftan produces more than 70 types of products, including various types of fuel, lubricating oils and bitumen, aromatic hydrocarbons and petrochemical products. The enterprise exports 70% of its products, mainly to the CIS countries and the European Union.

COVID-19 - News digest as of 23.06.2021

1. BP aims to stick with oil and gas to benefit from rising oil prices

MOSCOW (MRC) -- BP will continue producing hydrocarbons for decades to come and will benefit from rising oil prices even as it reduces output as part of its shift to low-carbon energy, Chief Executive Bernard Looney told Reuters. The recent rally in crude prices, which climbed on Tuesday to a more than two-year high above USD75 a barrel, is likely to continue, Looney said in an interview at the Reuters Events: Global Energy Transition conference. "There's a very strong possibility that these prices will sustain over the coming years, and if they do, that's very good for our strategy." Higher oil prices mean BP will be able to raise more cash from selling assets that will go towards building its renewables and low-carbon business, as well as returning money to shareholders via share buybacks, he said. The 50-year old Irishman brushed aside investor concerns that BP might miss out on the rally because of its plan to slash oil output by 40% and grow its renewables output 20 fold by 2030 as part of its energy transition.