As one of the first raw materials suppliers to understand the importance of recycling, Borealis has in the past focussed mainly on mechanical recycling. Today, however, the company has also extended these interests to chemical recycling as well. The two processes are not competitors, but are complementary to one another, the company said.
Borealis has been involved in a research project together with Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg) and Stena, in which the partners tested the gasification of plastic waste, thus recycling this at the molecular level into raw material for new plastic. In fact, says Borealis, olefins produced from chemically recycled synthetic crude oil offer the same high quality as olefins produced from fossil fuel-based crude oil.
In this latest project with Stena Recycling, a leading northern European recycling company, Borealis is looking at the possibilities of integrating a chemical recycling plant into the cracker operating at its existing production site in Stenungsund. Borealis is seeking to reduce the need for virgin fossil raw material by using more recycled plastic and has
Feedstock for the plant would be provided by Stena Recycling. Stena would be responsible for collecting the waste, sorting out the materials suitable for mechanical recycling and delivering the rest to the chemical recycling facility to be constructed by Borealis.
A feasibility study is now underway for the project. The study is being funded in part by a grant awarded by the Swedish Energy Agency. The final investment decision will be taken after this has been completed. Once the project has been green-lighted, construction of the unit will commence, with operations scheduled to start in 2024.
Borealis will also co-operate independently with Fortum Recycling and Waste, a leading provider of recycling and waste management services, on a project involving the sourcing of plastic waste to the chemical recycling unit; Fortum will also be applying for public funding to perform a feasibility study to assess this.
The study would define the technical requirements for the pre-treatment of plastics, quality control, and the sourcing of suitable materials. It should also determine the necessary requirements for permitting and investments with the aim to produce feedstock from plastic waste to Borealis’ chemical recycling unit. Fortum Recycling and Waste currently operates a mechanical recycling unit - the only one to recycle post-consumer plastic waste in Finland - at Riihimäki plastics refinery in Finland. Due to the limitations of the process, Fortnum is now also looking at technologies to improve its recycling rate.
The chemical recycling facility will allow the recycling of plastic waste that is not fit for mechanical recycling. The technology enables low-quality plastic waste streams to be recycled chemically into high-quality base chemicals (including olefins) and polyolefins. It will accelerate the transformation to plastics circularity by enabling the replacement on a larger scale of fossil-based feedstock by integrating more chemically recycled feedstock via the mass balance model.
Borealis Stenungsund has been ISCC PLUS certified since February 2021.
This integration of waste management and processing directly into a steam cracker would be one of the first of its kind. Once the plant is commissioned, hopefully in 2024, Borealis will take over the operation of the unit.