A new UK company – ReNew ELP – has unveiled its plans to “revolutionise end-of-life plastic recycling” through the use of a “unique technology” that chemically recycles plastic waste into oil and valuable chemicals.
ReNew ELP says that it will be bringing a new hydrothermal upgrading technology to the UK. This new, patented process, uses water at high pressure and high temperatures to chemically recycle a wide range of feedstocks – including end-of-life plastics and used tyres – into stable synthetic oils and valuable chemicals.
Richard Daley, ReNew ELP’s Managing Director (left), said: “Around 6% of global oil and gas output is used in the production of plastics annually, but of the 311 million tonnes of plastics produced each year only 5% is currently recycled, with much of the remainder ending up in landfill or polluting our oceans and fragile global ecosystems.
“Our technology provides an innovative solution to the global problem of end-of-life plastic disposal and contributes to the creation of a circular economy.
“The process achieves in 20 minutes what takes nature 200 million years. Our technology is unique when compared to every other thermal conversion process, as it uses water as the ‘agent of change’, so the plant can operate at far lower temperatures making it more efficient than pyrolysis or gasification.
“In addition, there is no need to dry the feedstock prior to treatment, which significantly reduces operating costs versus alternative technologies, and the process does not produce dioxins or other toxic compounds.”
The Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) technology – which involves breaking down a wide range of plastics to their original component molecules and then rearranging these molecules to turn the waste plastic into readily usable chemicals and recycled oils – was developed by Australian company Licella, and has already been extensively tested at a pilot plant in Australia.
ReNew ELP is building the first commercial scale Cat-HTR plant at the Wilton international site in Teesside to recycle end-of-life plastics. The plant will initially recycle 20,000 tonnes of end-of-life plastic per annum but ReNew ELP has planning consent for a further three units, with a potential total processing capacity of 80,000 tonnes per annum.
The launch of the company has been financed through equity investment organised by Armstrong Energy. Steve Mahon, CEO of Armstrong Energy, said: “We believe this technology can revolutionise the recycling of end-of-life plastics in the UK, and make a big dent in the amount of plastic that is currently going to landfill or ending up in our oceans.
“The technology lends itself to a modular build, allowing scale-up with minimal risk, and it has the ability to tailor the production towards either hydrocarbon liquids or waxes, providing a high degree of operational flexibility.
“We are currently identifying suitable waste streams from a broad range of plastics producers and waste management companies operating waste treatment facilities in the North East, to provide feedstock for our first 20,000 tonnes per annum plant, which will come on stream in late 2019.”