Materials science company Dow and advanced plastics recycling technology provider Mura Technology have announced the next step in an ongoing collaboration that was first announced in April 2021 to scale up advanced recycling solutions for plastics. Mura, with licensing and engineering partner KBR, plans to construct a new facility at Dow’s Böhlen, Germany, production site, one of several new plants planned by Dow and Mura in Europe and the U.S. and the first to be co-located with a Dow production plant. News of the project, which is targeted for a final investment decision by the end of 2023, was announced to the media during a live event in September.
Mura’s new Böhlen facility in Germany, which is expected to be operational by 2025, would deliver approximately 120 kilotons per annum (KTA) of advanced recycling capacity at full run-rate. This and the other planned units would collectively add as much as 600 KTA of advanced recycling capacity by 2030 and, according to Dow, would position it to become the largest consumer of circular feedstock for polyethylene production globally.
The ongoing Dow collaboration with Mura involves an initial project to construct the world’s first plant using Mura’s HydroPRS process, located in Teesside, U.K., which is expected be operational in 2023 with an initial 20-KTA production line.
As Marc van den Biggelaar, advanced recycling director, Dow EMEA & APAC, explained to the press, the collaboration is one of the ways Dow hopes to meet its circularity and climate goals, primary among them to reduce its carbon emissions by 5 million metric tons, or 15%, by 2050, with a longer-term goal of becoming carbon neutral. “At the same time, we want to stop the waste,” van den Biggelaar said. “There’s too much plastic going into waste, and we want to make sure that by at least 2030, a million metric tons of plastic is collected, reused, and then recycled through direct actions and partnerships back into the loop.”
Defining advanced recycling, van den Biggelaar said, “With advanced recycling, we break plastics down to their components, pretty much break it down to an oil and bring it back into the loop, creating plastics with similar properties to those you can make with fossil-based feed stocks.”
|Watch this video on Mura’s HydroPRS advanced recycling process.|
The new plant in Böhlen will use Mura’s HydroPRS (Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution) advanced recycling process. According to Oliver Borek, CCO of Mura Technology, Mura’s advanced recycling technology is unique in that it uses supercritical steam to convert most forms of plastics—including flexible and multilayer plastics, which have previously been deemed unrecyclable—back into the original oils and chemicals from which they were made. These can then be used to create new, virgin-equivalent plastic products that are even suitable for food contact packaging.
“Mura owns a proprietary technology that differs from pyrolysis, which is the predominant technology in chemical recycling in that we have a water-based technology, so we use water to break down the plastics,” he said. “This technology is protected by numerous patents and has been validated through decades-long use of very large pilot plant infrastructure, which we have in Australia through a partner company of ours.”
With Mura’s process, the same material can be recycled repeatedly, which Mura says means it has the potential to eliminate single-use plastic and prevent it from going to landfill or being incinerated. It also has additional carbon benefits, with advanced recycling processes expected to save approximately 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of plastic recycled, compared to incineration and reduce reliance on fossil-based feedstocks.
van den Biggelaar shared that of the four offtakes of Mura’s advanced recycling process, which are naphtha, distillate gas oil, heavy gas oil, and wax residue, Dow will use naptha for its co-located ethylene crackers, initially to produce plastics for packaging.
|Watch this video on Dow’s drive for a circular economy for plastics.|
“The idea, of course, with the circular economy, is that we bring waste plastics back into similar plastic applications and try and make sure that we go from downcycling to real recycling or in some cases, even upcycling,” he said. “So, if you have waste coming into the Mura facility, which, for example, is going to be food packaging, to bring that back into food packaging applications. So, you’ll see quite a lot of these circular products ending up in our polyethylene business being used for packaging solutions. But you can imagine, also, that these products will end up in other products. For example, used in automotive, used in appliances, and there can be other products than polyethylene.
“At some point of time, pretty much each Dow business will also participate in bringing circular-based products to the market. I just see, based on legislation right now in the market, that the quickest and largest need there is, really, is in the packaging business, but all the other businesses and markets will follow.”