In an announcement 14 September, Dow and Mura Technology have at long last revealed the site of the companies’ new chemical recycling project. A new 120-kilotonne unit, based on Mura’s supercritical water technology, will be constructed at the Dow Central Germany site in Böhlen, near Leipzig.
During a press visit to the site earlier this year, it became clear just how ambitious this project was. Dow and Mura Technology, through a strategy of co-location, are seeking to significantly increase the availability of sustainable polymers based on circular feedstock in the market. Advanced recycling makes this possible, but only if it can be done at scale.
“So what Dow is doing here together with Mura is scaling up that process and we are talking about really large volumes,” said Marc van den Biggelaar, Advanced Recycling Director for Dow. “Böhlen is the first site where you’ll see such a large-scale unit.”
But not the last.
“The cooperation with Mura is global so we are talking about a lot more volume and a lot more opportunity globally,” he said. The companies are looking at potential opportunities in other geographies, not just in Europe, but also on a global basis to ‘make that scale-up happen’, he added. “And I think that scalability can also contribute to really addressing the huge problem of plastic waste. Because if you don’t scale, you don’t address the plastic waste issue.”
The unit planned at Böhlen is about 4-6 times bigger than most plant sizes seen today. Böhlen was selected for this first chemical recycling plant because it has the infrastructure needed for a waste-to-oil project of this size. The cracker here produces a broad range of olefins that are used in the production of chemicals that, among others, are converted at Dow’s plastic plants into polyolefin products. Böhlen is a landlocked site; most of the naphtha it requires is delivered through a 400km pipeline from the harbour of Rostock in the north. The chemical recycling plant will therefore also contribute to the decarbonisation of the operations at Böhlen; according to Steve Mahon, CEO at Mura Technology, the company has data, which hopefully will be published soon, on the reduction in carbon emissions generated by the naphtha Mura produces compared to fossil naphtha. It is a significant reduction, he emphasised, and for Dow, it is a welcome additional advantage of the project. Sustainability is an important part of Dow’s strategy: Böhlen is already 100% powered by renewables, giving the site a substantial advantage regarding its Scope2 CO2 emissions. The company aims as a whole to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
It is worth noting that the partnership between Dow and Mura Technology already extends beyond this initiative. The companies first announced they were partnering last year, with Dow becoming involved in Mura’s first HydroPRS plant in Teesside, UK. Under that agreement, the plant, with an initial recycling capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year, will provide feedstock to Dow for the production of virgin-quality plastic resins.
However, the Böhlen plant is on a different scale, explained Carlo de Smet, the managing director for Dow Olefinverbund. “But it is also about co-location: we look at co-location if the opportunity presents itself, as it can confer a number of integration benefits. Obviously, the space to build a new plant next to the Dow plant or on the Dow premises must be available. It’s what made Böhlen the right choice.”
Steve Mahon agreed. “It's certainly easier to co-locate with a customer, and co-location with a customer who will be an offtaker of the product at a site like Böhlen, which has space and utilities, is the way to go. And what we're doing is building out that significant scale - the scale that meets the needs of a site like this.”
He added: “We don't believe in building lots of little chemical units and then supplying Dow from 50 different sites. We prefer to build large, centralised facilities which are integrated with a large customer like Dow.”