The Wonder from Down Under and the Flying Finns partner to divert waste plastic towards valuable materials, liquids

August 30, 2018 |

News arrived from Finland that Neste, UK-based chemical recycling company ReNew ELP, and Australian technology developer Licella have partnered to explore the potential of using mixed waste plastic as a raw material for fuels, chemicals, and new plastics. 

The Wonder from Down Under, Licella, joined up with the Flying Finns of Neste? Powerful potential that.

ReNew ELP is commencing construction of a chemical recycling plant in Teesside, UK, with a target to recycle end-of-life plastic to produce raw material for a range of petrochemical products. This will be the first commercial scale plant based on Cat-HTR technology, a catalytic hydro-thermal liquefaction platform developed by Licella over the past ten years. The collaboration also involves Armstrong Energy, who in a joint venture with Licella are leading the financing of the Teesside facility and global deployment of the Cat-HTRTM technology. 

Although the plant construction is not included in this collaboration project with Neste, it will nevertheless contribute to a common goal of enabling more efficient waste plastic utilization in the future. 

The partners also plan to study liquefied waste plastic feasibility and sustainability as refinery raw material, the companies are also collaborating with the aim to facilitate regulatory acceptance for chemical recycling. The collaboration is one of the steps towards Neste’s goal to process annually more than one million tons of waste plastic by 2030. 

The market and scope

In Europe, some 27 million tons of post-consumer plastic waste is generated annually. Only about one-third of this amount is currently collected for recycling.

The IKEA, Neste connection

The new venture follows news out in June that IKEA and Neste partnered in a pilot project starting in fall 2018 that will produce PP and PE plastic, chosen to contain 20 percent renewable content. IKEA will use the new plastic in products that are part of the current product range, such as plastic storage boxes, starting with a limited number of products. As capacities improve, more products will follow.

IKEA is working to change all of the plastic used in IKEA products to plastic based on recycled and/or renewable materials by 2030. In January 2018, the European Union released its Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. One of its objectives is to increase recycling of plastics and reuse of plastic packaging by 2030. In the EU Waste package, recycling target for plastic packaging was raised to 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030.

The Licella backstory

In March 2017 we reported that the Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, pledged  a $13M  non-repayable contribution through Sustainable Development Technology Canada that will enable Canfor to further develop and demonstrate Licella’s technology — it will take what is a currently a waste product from its production processes and develop it into a low-cost biofuels product.

Canfor’s new biocrude could be refined by existing refineries into next-generation biofuels and biochemicals that can be easily integrated into conventional fuels markets. Canfor Pulp Products Inc is a top global producer of premium pulp and paper products that is also one of North America’s largest green energy producers — and we reported previously on the project, here and here.

We reported last July that, following CanFor’s announcement to create a joint venture with Licella for development of a biocrude project, the company has further revealed plans to install the technology at a new facility in Prince George where it hopes to produce 400,000 barrels of fuel per year from wood waste at its pulp mills. The facility is expected to cost around $70 million.

We reported last May that Licella and Canfor formed a joint-venture under the name “Licella Pulp Joint Venture” to integrate Licella’s unique Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor upgrading platform into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills to economically convert biomass, including wood residues from Canfor Pulp’s kraft pulping processes, into biocrude oil, to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals.

We profiled Licella: The Wonder from Down Under in our Multi-Slide Guide here.


Reaction from the stakeholders

“This new material represents a significant step towards a fossil free future. No one has ever before been able to produce PP plastic from a fossil-free raw material other than on a laboratory scale. Together with Neste, we are ensuring that there is an opportunity to scale up the production of this material”, says Erik Ljungblad, Category Manager Plastic Products at IKEA of Sweden.

“The production of bio-based plastics at a commercial scale is a major achievement in the cooperation between Neste and IKEA, while it also marks a significant milestone in Neste’s strategy. IKEA is the first company to benefit from the developed supply capability that helps companies and brand owners towards replacing fossil-based raw materials with sustainable bio-based raw materials,” says Senior Vice President Tuomas Hyyryläinen from Neste’s Emerging Businesses business unit.

“Neste has been ranked the world’s second most sustainable company and we are already the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel from waste and residues. Our target is to also be a leader in low-carbon refining and support circular economy by developing innovative solutions based on waste plastic,” says Matti Lehmus, Executive Vice President of Neste’s Oil Products business area.

“With our strong legacy in raw material and pretreatment research, we are in a unique position to introduce waste plastics as a new raw material for fossil refining. At the same time, we aim to provide solutions to support global plastic waste reduction,” Lehmus continues.

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