DOW
Countdown to carbon neutrality underway / Net-zero emissions targeted by 2050 / Advanced recycling to pave way for circular plastics
Like a growing number of other multinational petrochemical and plastics producers, US-based chemical giant Dow (Midland, Michigan; www.dow.com) has set itself the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. En route, it plans to steadily leverage its own technological competence as well as tap the knowhow of players in related industries. At a virtual Investor Day conference in early October, CEO Jim Fitterling highlighted some of the steps the group is taking toward reducing its environmental footprint and improving circularity while – with a nod to shareholders – keeping an eye on the bottom line.

The unusually large number of strategic investments running in parallel – many of them planned for Europe – are aimed at advancing Dow’s circular and low-carbon offerings across its global asset base while delivering USD 3 bn (EUR 2.6 bn) in underlying EBITDA growth, Fitterling said. Near-term growth investments taken together, he noted, should generate about USD 2 bn toward the earnings improvement target.

Outside Europe, one of the most significant projects, a new ethylene and derivatives complex in Canada, is designed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in polyethylene production and lead to an EBITDA gain of an additional USD 1 bn annually by as early as 2030.

Dow plans to allocate around USD 1 bn of its annual spending budget to decarbonise its global asset base in a phased, site-by-site approach. The timing of the investments will be driven by “affordability, macroeconomic and regular drivers”, the CEO said. For some technologies, he explained that investment incentives may tip the balance toward where the money will be spent, with an eye to reducing risk and making the project financially attractive. Additionally, market-based carbon prices will be factored into investment decisions.

That plastics are the force behind many of major carbon neutrality initiatives is unsurprising, as the US group’s Packaging & Specialty Plastics operations alone account for annual sales of USD 23 bn. One of Dow’s current primary goals is to launch a “fully circular” plastics platform by 2022. To facilitate this, management calculates that 1m t/y of plastics will need to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships. By 2035, it expects 100% of its packaging solutions to be reusable or recyclable. In another step toward carbon neutrality, the company will replace end-of-life assets with new facilities emitting less CO2.
“Fully Circular” plastics platform by 2022
With the market now attaching “significant value” to the concept of circularity, Diego Donoso, business president of Packaging & Specialty Plastics, said Dow is addressing the “tremendous unmet demand” for circular and low-carbon polymer. Among other moves, it is expanding its 2019 cooperation with Fuenix Ecology (see Plasteurope.com of 05.09.2019) to scale up circular plastics production through advanced recycling. The partners now plan to build a second plant in Weert / The Netherlands that would process 20,000 t/y of plastics waste into a grade of pyrolysis oil that Dow can use as feedstock to produce new plastics at Terneuzen / The Netherlands. No timetable for this investment has been disclosed.

In another Dutch pyrolysis project, Dow and Gunvor Petroleum Rotterdam (www.gunvorgroup.com) have finalised plans to purify waste-derived feedstock as a step toward making circular polymers a permanent part of the chemicals and plastics group’s portfolio. Gunvor will begin supplying cracker-ready feedstock in 2021.

In the US, Dow has signed a multi-year agreement with New Hope Energy (Tyler, Texas; www.newhopeenergy.com) to source pyrolysis oil feedstocks derived from recycled plastics.

Dow Polyurethanes (Horgen / Switzerland; www.dowpolyurethanes.com) and partner Orrion Chemicals Orgaform (Semoy / France; www.oc-orgaform.com) last year announced plans to set up an industrial-scale facility in France to chemically recycle end-of-life PU foam (see Plasteurope.com of 05.06.2020).

To keep to its timetable for the platform launch, the group has linked up with Danish catalyst specialist Haldor Topsøe (Ravnholm; www.topsoe.com) to fast-track the design, engineering and construction of a market development-scale pyrolysis purification unit in Terneuzen. When the output is deemed to be of sufficient quality to produce new plastics, it will be used to produce a new circular polyethylene grade. In Europe, Dow said it has already received or is on track to receive the certification it needs sell the new circular polymers.

Across the channel, the group joined forces with UK chemical recycling specialist Mura Technology (London; www.muratechnology.com) earlier this year to tap that company’s new “HydroPRS” (Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution) advanced recycling process (see Plasteurope.com of 23.04.2021). With the input of water, heat and pressure, the technology allows soiled plastics waste previously considered unrecyclable to be converted back into its starting materials. The first of four 20,000 t/y lines is planned to be built at the UK firm’s Teesside plant and go onstream by 2022. The recyclate-derived plastic resin is expected to be suitable for food-contact packaging.
Decarbonising production step by step
This past summer, the company’s European arm Dow Benelux unveiled plans to reduce over 40% of carbon emissions in Terneuzen from current levels by 2030. The roadmap to carbon neutrality also foresees construction of a clean hydrogen plant at the Dutch site by 2026. Here, by-products from core production processes would be converted into hydrogen and CO2 and returned to the production process as a clean fuel. Any remaining CO2 would be captured and stored until alternative technologies develop, but Fitterling said management will simultaneously look for ways to use the excess carbon in production rather than store it.

In Canada, Dow is touting its concept for a net-zero carbon emissions ethylene and derivatives complex in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Scheduled for start-up in 2030, it would produce roughly 1.8m t/y of ethylene, along with 3.2m t/y of PE and ethylene derivatives. The group also aims to retrofit existing assets to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions for the site overall. Still subject to final approval by the board and regulatory authorities, this project is expected to decarbonise about 20% of Dow’s global ethylene capacity, while expanding PE supply by about 15%.

Management in Midland calculates that the Alberta facility will cost around 15% less than the US Tx-9 cracker started up at Freeport, Texas, in 2017, at the time under the umbrella of DowDuPont (see Plasteurope.com of 26.09.2017). The group regards the Texas complex as “industry-leading”, with a 65% lower conversion cost and up to 60% lower carbon emissions intensity measured against the average Dow cracker. Especially easy on the bottom line, it also gets by with 20% lower capital cost versus the industry at large, and according to Fitterling it has “consistently delivered a return of 15% on invested capital”.

Dow, compatriot resin maker LyondellBasell (LYB, Houston, Texas; www.lyondellBasell.com), and Canada’s Nova Chemicals (Calgary, Alberta; www.novachem.com) recently contributed to the USD 25m Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund (see Plasteurope.com of 31.05.2021).
19.10.2021 Plasteurope.com [248768-0]
Published on 19.10.2021

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