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SABIC targets 1m tonnes/year of circular products by 2030


SABIC targets 1m tonnes/year of circular products by 2030

SABIC is planning to scale up production of bio-based and chemically- and mechanically derived chemicals to 1m tonnes/year by 2030 and is considering investing in a new world-scale chemical recycling plant to drive that, the company said on Thursday. - ICIS

The next stage of the target to substantially ramp up the Saudi Arabia-based company’s production of Trucircle-branded renewable polymers will be the completion of its chemical recycling plant in Geleen, the Netherlands.

The plant is expected to be operational by the second quarter of this year, according to Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC, with an anticipated capacity of up to 20,000 tonnes/year of circular chemicals, referred to by some companies as advanced chemicals.

Developed as a joint venture with Plastic Energies and utilising mixed plastic waste as a feedstock, the projected nameplate capacity of the pyrolysis-based unit illustrates the scope of the investment needed to reach the 1m tonne/year mark, but the market has developed fast over the last few years.

Part of the journey here is there wasn’t a market, so you need to enter the market with products and try to create an understanding of the value proposition is, how are customers going to engage and brand those products. That allowed us to test the value that the brands have on advanced recycling, allowed us to ensure that we could deliver the performance benefits that customers wanted, and allowed us to figure out how to manage the different supply chains and the challenges with the technology. And that allowed us to make a decision to go to the next scale.

Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC

The steps immediately following the Geleen project will be to scale up volumes of products from chemical  and mechanical recycling, as well as bio-based products, with plans in place to increase SABIC’s footprint in all three segments, according to Maughon.

You will see a rebalancing of that as we go forward on scale, advanced recycling will be a big portion of the scale, bio-based will grow significantly as well, and mechanical will be the part that we have to step our game up the most, and we’re very engaged in looking at the right partnerships and capabilities to accelerate our mechanical recycling side.

Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC

The company is currently exploring plans for a larger-scale project, which is likely to have a processing capacity of around 200,000 tonnes/year, as well as other projects potentially including a smaller-scale chemical recycling plant in Saudi Arabia.

We can’t deliver the million if we haven’t done the 200,000 so these are the kinds of steps that we have to take.

Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC

A location is yet to be decided for the proposed large-scale project, but it is likely to be built somewhere in Europe, according to Maughon, due in part to the maturity of waste management in the region.

You need a maturity level on the waste management infrastructure, the supply side of that equation, even the conversion technologies and implementation of those, which is why we view that larger scale readiness to make more sense in Europe.

Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC

The technology and inputs for the proposed plant could not be determined at the time of publication.

Chemical company investment plans in sustainable products are growing more ambitious as smaller-scale production units come onstream and the level of end market demand indicated by public commitments by sectors such as the automotive sector grow.

The pace at which industry capacity will have to scale up to meet those commitments involves making decisions on which process technologies to use at a point where that space is continuing to develop, but the demand from end users means that companies have to move now, according to Maughon.

Whether it’s circular solutions and plastics or whether its decarbonisation, the same challenges exist. We can wait for the idealised solution that meets the market needs, delivers the right competitiveness and is mature and is no risk to implement, and then the industry doesn’t move at all, or we’re the last mover in that chain; or we can take steps where we can manage those risks. We’re thinking very carefully about where to drive the scale to bring the costs down, and where you have to balance that against a more modular approach to de-risk it but still deliver credibly. Each investment step we take needs to advance the maturity of the technology.

Bob Maughon, chief technology and sustainability officer at SABIC

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