SK Innovation to use pyrolysis oil from plastics recycling as refinery feedstock - Chemical Engineering

2022-03-10 08:28:09 By : Ms. Sophie Xu

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By Mary Page Bailey | October 4, 2021

SK Innovation’s Ulsan Complex (Ulsan CLX) will be the first in South Korea to introduce pyrolysis oil as feedstock material for refinery/petrochemical processing. Aside from its innovative approach as a solution to waste plastics, what makes this advancement more striking is that it was the fruit of the concerted public-private cooperation in building a circular economy for plastic wastes.

A tank truck loaded with waste plastic pyrolysis oil at the SK Innovation Ulsan CLX site (Source: SK Innovation)

SK Geo Centric (SKGC) will employ pyrolysis oil produced through the thermal degradation of plastic wastes as feed-stock oil to its refinery/petrochemical process in Ulsan Complex for the first time in Korea. Just like other crude oil, the pyrolysis oil employed as feedstock oil will be reborn as a petrochemical process through the refinery process of SK Energy and the petrochemical process of SKGC.

 So far it was impossible to employ the existing pyrolysis oil as a raw material for petrochemical products, since impurities such as chlorine might turn it into a source of air pollutants, or cause facility corrosion. Now, SKGC has developed and applied a post-processing technology to eliminate foreign objects from pyrolysis oil, thereby converting it into eco-friendly feedstock oil.

The pyrolysis oil first adopted at the site is from Jeju Clean Energy, a Korean pyrolysis enterprise that has been engaged in a joint research project on post-processing in conjunction with SKGC and SK Innovation’s Institute of Environmental Science & Technology since 2019.

 Considering the urgent need of solving of waste plastic issues, SKGC also realized the necessity of acquiring a core pyrolysis technology and, thus, looks to administer a two-track strategy that involves securing a key pyrolysis technology through a global technology partnering and concomitantly constructing a large pyrolysis plant that combines SK’s own impurity removing process.

 To do so, SK Geo Centric concluded an MOU on business cooperation with Brightmark, and announced its plan to build an urban oil field that runs based on chemical recycling methods such as a large-scale pyrolysis plant last July. The pyrolysis plant that integrates global technology with its own is scheduled for commercial operation in 2024 and is able to handle 200,000 tons of plastic wastes a year.

Yoo Jae-young, President of Ulsan CLX pointed out, “Despite eco-friendly characteristics of pyrolysis oil out of plastic waste, technical issues have always stood in the way of applying it to the process.” “It was a concerted effort and cooperation among the related departments and our six decades of experience and know-how in petrochemical business that made it possible to come up with the optimum solution and use the oil in actual processes.”

 SKGC will gradually increase the amount of pyrolysis oil used in processes from approximately 200 tons/year or more and conduct empirical research on its effect on production facilities and products.

“The pioneering application of pyrolysis oil to the Ulsan CLX is the sheer product of joint public-private endeavor to promote a circular economy for plastic resources and environmentally-friendly initiatives,” said CEO of SKGC Na Kyung-soo. “We will beef up our cooperative ties with the relevant ministries, industries, and academia so as to make a grand transformation from Carbon to Green business based on ESG management.”

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