TotalEnergies to build chemical recycling plant in Texas - Recycling Today

2022-06-03 23:53:37 By : Mr. JACK PENG

French petrochemical firm will use New Hope Energy technology at 310,000-ton-per-year plant.

France-based TotalEnergies and Texas-based New Hope Energy have signed a commercial agreement under which New Hope Energy will build a chemical recycling plant in the Lone Star state, the two companies say.

At the plant, plastic scrap will be converted into “a recycled feedstock that TotalEnergies will partly purchase and convert into virgin-quality polymers, which can be used for food-grade packaging,” the French petrochemical firm says.

New Hope Energy describes itself as “a pioneer in the field of chemical recycling.” The company has been operating a facility in Tyler, Texas, since 2018, with an expansion underway that it says will make that plant “the largest pyrolysis facility in the world.”

The TotalEnergies/New Hope Energy plant is expected to start production in 2025 and will use what the companies call a patented pyrolysis technology that was developed in partnership with Houston-based Lummus Technology.

The new plant, for which a site has not yet been selected or disclosed, will process and convert more than 310,000 tons per year of mixed plastic scrap that TotalEnergies says “would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration.”

TotalEnergies will then use 100,000 tons of what it is calling recycled polymer feedstock (RPF) produced at the new facility at its Texas-based production units “to manufacture high-quality polymers suitable for food-grade applications such as flexible and rigid food packaging containers.”

Last year, United States-based Dow announced it had established a multiyear agreement with New Hope Energy for its Tyler facility to supply Dow with pyrolysis oil feedstocks derived from plastics recycled there.

Valérie Goff, senior vice president of polymers at TotalEnergies, says, “We are pleased to partner with New Hope Energy, which offers a promising technology and the ability to scale. This new project is another concrete and significant step TotalEnergies is taking to address the challenge of plastic recycling and meet our goal of producing 30 percent circular polymers by 2030.”

Rusty Combs, CEO of New Hope Energy, adds, “TotalEnergies understands the need to increase recycling in the U.S. and abroad, and [its] 2030 renewable polymer goal is a testament [to its] commitment to the circular economy. Our partnership with Lummus has allowed us to provide the scale and reliability necessary to support them in this mission.”

“The ability to effectively and economically convert waste plastics to pyrolysis oil for further use is a critical step in achieving a true circular economy,” says Leon de Bruyn, president and CEO of pyrolysis technology provider Lummus. “Supporting TotalEnergies in reaching [its] sustainability goals is exactly what our integrated processing solutions are designed to do.”

A resolution requiring the company to publish a report describing how it could shift its plastic production business from virgin to recycled plastic polymers, among other things.

Shareholders of Phillips 66, an energy company based in Houston, have approved a resolution urging increased transparency of the company’s plastics production. According to As You Sow, a Berkley, California-based nonprofit has reported that 50.4 percent of the shareholders voted for increased transparency during a recent meeting.   

The resolution requests that Phillips 66 publish a plastic report describing how it could shift its plastic production business from virgin to recycled plastic polymers. It also asks the company to assess the resilience of its petrochemical assets under virgin-to-recycled transition scenarios of five and 10 years and study the financial risks associated.  

Phillips 66 is the joint owner of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company (CPChem). According to data published in the Plastic Waste Makers Index, CPChem is the 15th largest global producer of virgin plastic resins bound for single-use applications. 

In its 2020 sustainability report, CPChem states a goal to end plastic waste. The company was also one of the first major U.S. petrochemical companies to announce a recycled plastic polymer production target. However, As You Sow says the company’s planned expansions of virgin plastic production are three times higher than its recycled plastics target. In total, CPChem’s recycled plastics target is estimated to displace less than 8 percent of its virgin plastic production volumes by 2030.  

“Petrochemical companies that are serious about their commitments to end or combat plastic pollution cannot justify the continuous and rapid expansion of virgin plastic production,” says Joshua Romo, energy and plastics associate at As You Sow. “We hope this majority vote will motivate the company to thoroughly assess its exposure to the single-use plastic supply chain and provide investors with information on how it will decrease transition risk as the world moves away from virgin and single-use plastics.”   

Experts say plastic pollution may be nearing an irreversible tipping point. The plastic lifecycle imposes costs on the environment, climate, and human health that are at least 10 times higher than the market price of plastics. At the heart of the plastic pollution problem are single-use plastics, which make up the largest component of ocean-bound plastic pollution.  

As You Sow’s resolution is based on peer-reviewed research from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Systemiq, in collaboration with global experts. It found the world can feasibly reduce ocean plastic pollution by 80 percent by 2040 using existing technology. This transition is based on a global shift to recycled plastics, tripling demand for recycled content, coupled with a one-third absolute reduction of virgin demand, mostly of virgin single-use plastic.  

“While the plastics industry frequently discusses the need to transition towards a circular economy for plastics, U.S. petrochemical companies have not adequately addressed the necessity for or the potential impacts of an expeditious transition away from virgin plastics,” says Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. “In fact, as demonstrated by CPChem, many major plastic polymer producers are investing in a continuous expansion of virgin plastic production.”  

A similar proposal is pending at Exxon Mobil Corp., which has been cited as the world’s largest producer of single-use plastic resins. It will be voted on at Exxon’s annual meeting on May 25. 

Virginia-based scrap company says it generated record revenue and positive cash flows.

Greenwave Technology Solutions Inc., Norfolk, Virginia, which operates 11 scrap yards under the Empire Services name, has reported revenue of $9.92 million in the first quarter of this year. It calls that an increase of 66.9 percent from the $5.94 million in revenue generated in the first quarter of 2021.

“The company generated positive cash flows from operating activities and eliminated $44 million in derivative liabilities, significantly improving its balance sheet and shareholder’s equity,” Greenwave says regarding its operations in North Carolina and Florida.

The firm says its revenue growth “is being driven by robust demand for scrap metal, record-high commodity prices, inflationary pressures, the repurposing and implementation of Greenwave’s technology into Empire’s operations and an expanding footprint of metal recycling facilities.”

Greenwave says it is in the process of installing a second shredder and downstream system, expected to come online this summer.

“As our first-quarter financials show, Greenwave is aggressively growing its revenue while responsibly managing our expenditures and cash flows,” Greenwave CEO Danny Meeks says. “The significant investments in equipment and infrastructure we made during the first quarter, along with the planned opening of our 12th location in Fairmont, North Carolina, positions Greenwave to continue growing its revenues in the coming quarters.”

Greenwave says it submitted an application May 4 to list its stock on the NASDAQ, which it says “could result in a significant increase in institutional interest and liquidity in the market for the company’s stock.”

Backer of proposed aluminum plant is now co-chair of Space Railway Corp.

Craig Bouchard, formerly part of the executive team of the stalled Braidy Industries (now Unity Aluminum) project in Kentucky, has reemerged as the co-chair of the board of Space Railway Corp.

The Dallas-based company describes itself as working toward developing a “space transportation infrastructure [that] is scalable in its numbers and size. It will have the ability to provide railway-like efficiencies in delivering passengers and payload through our solar system.”

In a biography posted to the Space Railway Corp. website, Bouchard is described as having “co-founded three metals companies that achieved over $1 billion of revenue within 18 months. The first, Esmark grew from $4 million of revenue in 2003 to nearly $4 billion in 2008, becoming the highest appreciating stock on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq for the full year 2008.”

West Virginia-based steelmaker Esmark was acquired in August 2008 by Russia-based OAO Severstal. The Russian metals firm paid $775 million for Esmark’s steelmaking, service center and coking coal assets. Six years later, Steel Dynamics Inc. paid more than $1.6 billion for one of those mills (in Mississippi) while the former AK Steel paid $700 for another mill, in Michigan.

From 2017 to February 2020, Bouchard was the chair and CEO of Braidy Industries. That firm announced its intention to build a $1.3 billion aluminum plant in Kentucky. It attracted a $15 million investment from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a potential $200 million commitment from Russian metals producer Rusal.

The project has yet to move much past the groundbreaking stage, however, and Bouchard was removed from his positions in February 2020 and then sued the company afterward.

On its website, Space Railway Corp. seems to indicate it will require considerable investor backing. “America needs a transformational system that provides the frequency, safety, and cost to efficiently move payload and passengers into orbit and beyond—or lose its preeminence in space,” the company says. “It will entail a second ‘moon shot’ level effort worthy of our people and ingenuity.”

Recovered fiber packers can consider several telltale signs that could signal it’s time to shop for a new baler.

CVB Ecologistics, based in Tilburg, Netherlands, has a dozen balers operating at its nine recycling plants in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, says Wil van Dommelen, who has purchasing manager responsibilities for the firm.

While the firm processes plastic and textiles, baling recovered fiber represents a large portion of CVB’s recycling activity.

According to van Dommelen, he and his colleagues take several factors into consideration when determining when the company’s bottom line will benefit from replacing an existing baler with a new one.

As portrayed by van Dommelen, CVB takes a proactive approach when assessing baler performance. The time to start shopping for a replacement baler, he says, “will be the moment that your baler can no longer deliver the performance which you were used to or which you need, such as the tonnage per hour.”

When output decreases, “also your cost calculation (price per ton) is no longer correct,” he adds.

Van Dommelen continues, “Such a reduction in performance is usually a combination of several defects in the baler, or when there is a risk of major costs for a baler. A baler has standard wear parts that need to be replaced periodically, such as guide strips, movable parts in the strapping system, hydraulic components and valves, oil filters, etc., but these are usually the smaller costs that have to be made to keep the baler productive.”

Beyond the accumulating smaller costs, “There can also be a large cost to a baler that makes it ever wiser to replace the baler with a new one,” the recycler says. “Examples of this [can be] the press channel has worn out in such a way that there is too much play on the ram, and therefore also play on the master cylinder, which could break off again as a result. At that moment, it is wise to opt for a new press.”

Fluid leaks can be another sign a baler is showing its age. “If the hydraulic seals in the valve block (the baler’s motor) are so worn that internal leaks occur and the baler can no longer build up its original pressure, then it is usually the time to replace it,” van Dommelen says. “Practice often shows that repairing never gives the same result as new.”

Maintenance plays a role in how long a baler can last, he notes, but so too can the design and fabrication quality of the baler itself. “A high-quality press [that] is also well maintained and that has been handling a fairly easy-to-process product can last for 20 to 30 years or longer,” van Dommelen says. He cautions, “There are also cheaper presses for sale with an expected lifespan—a lot less—possibly only 10 years.”

The baler shopping process then creates a new decision tree, with considerations that include how much tonnage a baler will be asked to handle and what types of materials.

“The size and capacity of the press must be geared to the quantities that you want to process on it,” van Dommelen says. Even if old corrugated containers (OCC) are a predominant grade handled, recyclers still need machines that can handle varying infeeds, he adds.

“As a recycler, you have to ensure that you can process all sizes and qualities on it, and some qualities must first be changed in structure by means of a shredder or conditioner/ruffler before a sturdy stackable bale can be made,” van Dommelen says.

For OCC, he says it is “important to know the dimensions of the OCC to determine how big the conveyor belt and the hopper you need are and what size baler you need. In order to be able to process all incoming cardboard, a baler with a large filling opening (2 meters, or 6.5 feet) is recommended.”

The company’s steady intake of OCC means CVB seeks out several standard features. He says of the company’s 12 balers, “They all have about the same capacity, varying from 120 tons to 140 tons press force and press capacity up to 50 or 60 tons per hour (depending on the product).”

The CVB balers all are “equipped with the largest possible supply conveyor belt and filling funnel, and our balers can handle just about all qualities, regardless of which location or depot they arrive at,” van Dommelen says.

Baler manufacturers compete to offer new features, which van Dommelen says should be a due diligence factor in the shopping process. “If that new technology can contribute to increasing the tonnage per hour or make it possible to process difficult-to-process products more easily, then it is a matter of calculating how much time such an improvement or investment will take to have it earned back,” the recycler adds. “It could also be the reason to invest in a new faster or better baler.”

CVB Ecologistics has a baler fleet that varies in age, van Dommelen says, because the company does not retire a baler unless it shows clear signs of not maintaining its productivity.

“This includes balers that are only a year old, but there are also balers that are already 20 years old,” van Dommelen says of CVB’s balers. “So, the age of the baler is not a reason to process less tonnage on it. The capacity of a baler is not only judged by age but also by the defects that occur as they get older.”