3Bi Webinar on Green Recovery

On 07 July, 3Bi organised its first ever joint webinar, on the topic of “Crisis and Opportunity: How to Create a Circular, Bio-based Recovery in a Petro, Post-Covid World?”. Moderated by Sarah Hickingbottom, three panellists provided insights into different aspects of the topic.

Erik Klooster (VNPI) used the example of the Dutch sector to show petrochemical refining during turbulent times. The Dutch refineries suffered from the decreased global demand for oil during the Covid-lockdowns: the industry could not reduce output quickly enough, leading to storage problems. The impact of biofuels has been especially hard, resulting in a drop in production of 15 %. This affects the entire value chain, with less demand for agricultural feedstock, but also a drop in supply of co-products such as animal feed and CO2 for beverages and cooling. In the future, however, refineries which are well integrated with the chemical industry and which can transition to low carbon fuels will be better positioned in the coming energy transition and electrification of the vehicle fleet.

Mercedes Alonso (NESTE) emphasised the importance of reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. This means needing to innovate circular solutions to reuse carbon again and again. She presented NESTE’s solutions, from renewable diesel and aviation fuels to work on renewable plastics and recycling. To accelerate circularity, plastics must be rethought with an end-of-life in mind to allow for e.g. liquefaction and upcycling. To inject virgin carbon into the cycle, renewable polymers from bio-based feedstock are essential. These can be added directly to the crackers, as a drop-in for the circular carbon cycle. NESTE has also joined the European Alliance for Green Recovery calling for the economic package planned for Covid-19 recovery to be consistent with the Green Deal goals.

A presentation from Frank Kuijpers (SABIC) focused on SABIC’s Trucircle™ solution to the circular economy. This brand platform includes recyclability design, mechanically recycled polymers, circular polymers, and renewable polymers, in order to close the loop. Chemical recycling via pyrolysis and hydrotreatment offers materials which are equal to the original polymers, making plastics completely recyclable without loss of quality. Currently, SABIC is aiming to build a demo plant as a first step towards fully commercial production level facilities.

The following discussion touched on the importance of logistics, with decentralised collection and recycling sites across the continent, the challenge of supporting the fragmented waste collection industry to provide these feedstocks, and gaining public support for the circular biobased economy. It became clear during the webinar that many technical boundaries are being broken, but that the economics of the new circular bioeconomy have to compete with depreciated conventional plants, legislation lagging behind current developments, and a public not yet convinced that bio-based feedstock is out to good use in the chemical industry.

We have made a recording of the webinar available here.