Anellotech, a US sustainable technology company that has developed and patented technology for converting biomass into BTX aromatics - a mixture of benzene, toluene and xylene - that are chemically identical to petroleum-based counterparts has now expanded its programme with a recycling technology, called Plas-Tcat. The first results of the tests conducted in the laboratory are promising.
The company’s original Bio-TCat technology is an efficient thermal catalytic process for making bio-aromatics from wood. That process has not only been demonstrated with loblolly pine feedstocks at Anellotech’s TCat-8 pilot plant in Silsbee, Texas, engineering work to design the first commercial plant is also already underway.
Now, Anellotech is leveraging its Bio-TCat platform for the development of Plas-TCat, a process technology to convert a wide range of mixed waste plastics - including composite films - into chemicals and fuels. While the development stage is projected to last for several years, said the company, the first results have been achieved.
In the lab, the process was used to successfully convert a Lay’s Barbeque Potato Chip (PepsiCo) bag into paraxylene, the primary chemical used to make virgin PET for beverage bottles. The conversion also had high yields of benzene, toluene and olefins used to make a range of plastics, including polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, ABS and polycarbonate.
The technology developed by Anellotech is simpler and more elegant than the current technologies available. It features an economical zeolite catalyst and heat in one fluid bed reactor to make commodity chemicals directly from plastic waste. “Contrast this with companies making pyrolysis oils from plastics which must be upgraded at a chemical plant,” said David Sudolsky, president & CEO of Anellotech.
From the same mixed plastic feedstock, the new process can be adjusted to two different production modes: ‘Hi-Olefins’ which emphasises the production of olefins such as ethylene and propylene or ‘Hi-BTX’ which will produce mostly aromatics like BTX (benzene, toluene and xylene) and paraxylene – the key component needed for PET.
Consumer goods brand owners in the beverage, textile, food and cosmetics sectors are facing ambitious targets to include recycled PET (rPET) content in their product packaging. Used beverage bottles are the main source of rPET – however, not enough beverage bottles are currently produced, collected or recycled to satisfy growing global demand. The new technology, which addresses the recyclability problem of multilayer food packaging like potato chip bags and other non-PET waste plastics, by converting these into chemicals, including paraxylene, can therefore also contribute by ensuring a steady supply of recycled feedstock.