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NOVA Chemicals and Enerkem advancing to pilot

NOVA Chemicals and Enerkem advancing to pilot
Employees walking on-site at Enerkem Alberta Biofuels in Edmonton, Alberta (photo courtesy Merle Prosofsky).

In Canada, NOVA Chemicals Corporation (NOVA Chemicals) and Enerkem Inc. (Enerkem) have announced that they are advancing their "versatile and energy-efficient" chemical recycling technology to the pilot stage in Edmonton, Alberta (AB), thanks in part to CA$4.5 million in funding from Alberta Innovates.

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In May 2020, the two companies entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) to explore turning non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal waste into ethylene, a basic building block of plastics.

The two would collaborate on innovative technology to close the loop on recycling and drive a plastics circular economy.

The CA$4.5 million funding, provided through Alberta Innovates’ Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) Economic Recovery Program has enabled the companies to expedite the construction of a pilot-scale reactor system that converts syngas produced from used, non-recyclable and non-compostable plastics to feedstocks for virgin-grade plastics.

By taking waste streams that are otherwise non-recyclable, we can complement mechanical recycling efforts and provide an important solution to close the gap between recycling targets and the important role plastics play in our daily lives, said Michel Chornet, EVP, Engineering, Innovation, and Operations at Enerkem.

Combining technology and expertise

The team – which includes experts from leading chemicals and plastic resins producer, NOVA Chemicals – has been working to achieve lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while significantly accelerating the upgrading process for waste materials.

The project aims to expand the types of materials that can be recycled and increase recycling rates while reducing emissions from incineration and landfill and keeping plastic out of the environment. It is a significant step in realizing the vision of the circular economy, Michel Chornet said.

The project leverages the gasification expertise of Enerkem – a world-leading waste to renewable fuels and chemicals producer – and NOVA Chemicals’ petrochemicals and plastic manufacturing experience to position Alberta as a world leader in the development of a circular economy by diverting waste from landfills, creating value-added products, and reducing GHG emissions.

NOVA has a bold ambition to create a plastics circular economy and work to design a low carbon, zero plastic waste future, said Greg DeKunder, VP, Polyethylene Marketing at NOVA Chemicals.

Develop plastics circular economy

A NOVA Chemicals’ consumer survey research indicates that consumers are placing renewed value on purchasing products with sustainable packaging. However, the current plastic recycling rate in Canada is less than 10 percent.

Advanced recycling technology returns plastics back to feedstocks to produce new plastics that are indistinguishable from virgin resins.

A plastics circular economy transforms the lifecycle of plastics, helping to eliminate plastic waste and minimize new resource use.

Advanced recycling technologies are a game-changing component of enabling a circular economy and achieving zero plastic waste in the environment. This joint initiative with Enerkem further demonstrates that industry collaboration will be key to providing economically viable solutions for sustainable, circular plastic production, Greg DeKunder said.

The successful implementation of this technology in Alberta could result in a reduction of local carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 165 000 tonnes of CO2eq per year, while also diverting 230 000 tonnes of waste (including over 100 000 tonnes of mixed plastic waste) per year from landfills.

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