Green tie-ups: LG Chem/Caltex to develop 3HP tech; Lummus/Phigenesis to recycle waste plastics to petchem feedstock materials

LG Chem/Caltex to develop 3HP tech

South Korean chemical firm LG Chem has teamed up with GS Caltex, a major refiner in South Korea, to develop mass-production technologies of 3-hydroxypropionic acid, which is a biodegradable plastic material produced through a microorganism fermenting process of bio-materials such as glucose and unrefined glycerol derived from vegetable oil.

3-hydroxypropionic acid (3HP) is drawing attention as a next-generation platform chemical that can be used as raw materials for a variety of materials including biodegradable plastic and super absorbent polymers used in diapers, paints, adhesives and glues, coating materials, and carbon fiber.

LG Chem used 3HP fermenting technologies to develop poly lactate 3-hydroxypropionate (PLH), a biodegradable material that can configure mechanical properties equivalent to synthetic resins. The goal is to produce a prototype by 2023.

"In this current period where carbon neutrality has become a global mega-trend, the fact that a company leading the oil refining industry and another leading the chemical industry is cooperating for the development and commercialisation of sustainable new materials has great meaning," LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol said recently.

LG Chem’s fermented production technology will be combined with GS Caltex’s process facility technologies. This will accelerate entry into biodegradable materials and bio-plastic markets through the production of a 3HP prototype from 2023.

"As microplastics have become a serious environmental issue, products that quickly decompose in the natural ecosystem will be able to create sustainable value in that it will eco-friendly consumption,” said GS Caltex President Hur Sae-hong.

South Korea nurtures the white biotechnology industry that focuses on the creation and distribution of biodegradable bioplastics. White biotechnology is an area of science that is devoted to using living cells collected from yeast, moulds, microorganisms and plants, and enzymes to create products that can be easily degraded.

LG Chem is also the first company in South Korea to develop lactic acid and biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA). It also recently tied up with US-based grain company Archer Daniels Midland to set up a PLA facility in the US.

Lummus/Phigenesis to recycle waste plastics to petchem feedstock materials

In other news, US-based Lummus Technology, through its Green Circle subsidiary, has finalised a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Phigenesis, a UK-based company established to deliver ISCC+ certified renewable chemical feedstock for use in existing petrochemical plants to manufacture virgin grade plastics, suitable for all grades of application.

Under the agreement, Phigenesis will deploy the Lummus New Hope Plastics Pyrolysis Technology for a new chemical recycling facility with a capacity of 150,000 tonnes/year. This will be the first license of the proven chemical recycling technology in Europe, and at this scale, the first project will significantly increase the current European chemical recycling capacity.

This agreement accelerates Phigenesis’ delivery of European projects, with the first site to be sized at 150,000 tonnes/year, using proven operating technology. Based on the Lummus New Hope Plastics Pyrolysis process, the new facility will allow for a significant reduction in the carbon emissions compared to plastics waste incineration and virgin polymers production, and will help in the fight against climate change by a direct displacement of oil-derived feedstocks with recycled content. The technology is part of a partnership formed in 2020 between New Hope Energy and Lummus, combining Lummus’ ability to license, scale-up and further develop process technology and New Hope Energy’s operational experience and waste conversion technology.

“Lummus has tremendous focus on providing innovative solutions to the marketplace that promote the global energy transition. Our technology for advanced chemical recycling of plastic waste is just one of the many pathways we are deploying to support this global effort,” said Leon de Bruyn, President/CEO of Lummus Technology. “We are extremely proud to support Phigenesis’ overall plan to deliver these units to the European market and thus to make a significant contribution to eliminate plastic waste.”

“Phigenesis is committed to delivering meaningful volume contributions to the circular and low emission economy, using significant quantities of otherwise unrecycled and incinerated waste plastics to produce feedstock for petrochemical facilities to make plastics, displacing virgin materials” Chris Moore, CEO of Phigenesis said. “We are delighted Lummus Technology is partnering with Phigenesis, enabling us to deploy the Lummus New Hope Plastic Pyrolysis Technology at a scale attractive to this evolving market.”

Green Circle is commercialising and developing breakthrough solutions to address all the key pillars of the energy transition, including end-of-life waste plastics recycling, production of bio-derived sustainable chemicals and decarbonisation strategies for existing and new assets.

Phigenesis has plans for developing five similar sized projects in Europe, including feedstock supply, product sales and delivery of engineering. Phigenesis’ approach to each project prioritises the use of renewable energies and low emission technologies to ensure a major contribution to net zero is achieved.


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