With chemical recycling on the rise, one of the more common technologies currently opted for is turning out to be pyrolysis. Now three companies - Repsol, technology provider Axens and French research and training centre IFPEN - have teamed up to develop a process yielding a cleaner, directly useable pyrolysis oil that can be fed undiluted into petrochemical units.
This patented Rewind Mix process removes impurities such as silicon, chlorine, diolefins, and metals from the output of the pyrolysis process, opening the door for the ‘massive introduction of recycled pyrolysis oil in existing steam cracking assets’, the companies said.
The new process was developed at the Repsol Technology Lab and IFPEN facilities and has undergone extensive testing at pilot scale, during which the exact conditions of the future industrial plant were reproduced. The results demonstrated the suitability for use in existing petrochemical units.
The process is based, among others on Axens’ catalyst technology, bolstered by the three partners' years of experience in the petrochemical industry. Axens designed the industrial process scheme on behalf of the project.
Going forward, the partners will study the first industrial application at one of Repsol’s facilities while Axens will commercialise the technology through licensing.
For Repsol, the project is the continuation of its longstanding efforts to incorporate circularity in its products. In 2015, it became the first company to reintroduce oil derived from the chemical recycling of plastic waste not suited for conventional mechanical recycling on an industrial scale at its Puertollano industrial complex.
In 2019, Repsol earned ISCC Plus Certification and subsequently introduced its first circular polyolefins. The present project supports the recent announcement in the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan of the company's ambition to use four million metric tons of waste per year besides recycling the equivalent of 20% of its polyolefins production by 2030.
Polyolefins from petrochemistry represent about half of the 400 Mt/y world plastic production and a major target in terms of plastic recycling. Today, mechanical recycling faces limitations due to feedstock quality issues that directly impact product quality and potential applications, in particular for food-grade use. Chemical recycling offers a feasible complementary solution to mechanical recycling. The ReWind Mix upgrading process will expand the deployment of
pyrolysis oil, promoting the production of food-grade, low-carbon footprint, recycled plastics.