Neste has successfully concluded its first series of trial runs processing liquefied waste plastic at its Porvoo refinery in Finland. After kicking the series off with its first-ever industrial scale trial run with liquefied waste plastic in 2020, Neste has conducted additional runs in 2021. In the course of the trial runs, Neste has been able to upgrade liquefied waste plastic to drop-in solutions for plastic production and develop industrial scale capabilities to upgrade recycled feedstocks.
Trials pave the way for continuous and commercial activities
Neste has set itself the goal of processing more than one million tons of plastic waste per year from 2030 onwards. To achieve that goal, the company is advancing chemical recycling to turn plastic waste into a valuable raw material, strengthening circularity. For the first time ever, Neste completed a successful trial run with 400 tons of plastic waste in 2020, marking a milestone when it comes to Neste’s goal of driving a circular economy to reduce the depletion of fossil resources.
In the course of 2021, additional trials were conducted to gain further insights into the processing of liquefied waste plastic, including the processes’ impact on the refinery operations. In addition to that, Neste also focused on proving the concept of closing the loop in the plastics value chain and making circularity a reality: The tests validate that Neste is already able to process significant quantities of recycled raw materials to drop-in products for petrochemical use, while developing the capabilities to upgrade even larger quantities of waste plastic into even higher quality feedstock for the petrochemicals uses.
“There is strong interest in feedstocks from recycled raw materials in the polymers and chemicals market,” says Mercedes Alonso, Executive Vice President, Renewable Polymers and Chemicals at Neste. “By processing liquefied waste plastic and upgrading waste into valuable resources, we thereby not only contribute to combating the plastic pollution challenge, but we also provide chemical and polymer companies with the means to advance the circular economy. To do so at a larger scale going forward, we’ll also require regulatory support. On the one hand, this includes the acceptance of chemical recycling as a complementary technology to achieve ambitious recycling targets. On the other hand, we need similarly ambitious targets for increasing the use of more sustainable materials.”
Circular economy for polymers
The trial runs are already reflecting a value chain that can contribute to processing larger volumes of plastic waste in due course. The plastic waste used for the trial runs comprised only mixed post-consumer waste that is otherwise hard to recycle.
“In total, we have processed about 800 tons of liquefied waste plastic at our refineries in Finland. With the latest trial runs in Porvoo, we are laying the foundation for replacing crude oil based raw materials with liquefied waste plastic and strengthening circularity together with our customers. Based on the successful trials, we can conclude that liquefied waste plastics is a viable alternative for fossil raw material. In order to gain the necessary confidence needed for larger-scale production, further trials with larger volumes are still needed, and runs with increased volumes will continue in 2022,” says Markku Korvenranta, Executive Vice President of Oil Products at Neste.
The 800 tons of waste plastic that have been processed by now equal the amount a small city in the EU generates* in a year. The output from the trial runs is already finding its way into the polymers cycle as feedstock for new polymer products - with the same properties and the same quality as those based on fossil feedstock, making the feedstock suitable even for food packaging or healthcare applications.
*) Based on figures from Eurostat and assuming a city size of 50,000 people.