Resource Use

New Dutch facility to turn waste into chemicals

Plans for a groundbreaking ‘waste-to-chemistry’ facility in the Netherlands are moving forward after the project received £8 million of funding from a consortium of sustainability-focused investors.

New Dutch facility to turn waste into chemicals
Enerkem's biorefinery in Edmonton, Canada
The planned facility, in Rotterdam, will divert residual waste, including plastics, from landfill to be converted into methanol, an alcohol with similar properties to ethanol. Methanol is most commonly used as a key component of denatured alcohol or methylated spirits, but also has a range of other applications including use as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel for specialised vehicles and as a feedstock for manufacturing chemicals.

The international funding group behind the project is made up of green fuel and chemical companies Enerkem and AzkoNobel Specialty Chemicals, industrial gas and services supplier Air Liquide, and the Port of Rotterdam, where the plant will be situated, along with support from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Province of Zuid-Holland and the Dutch development agency InnovationQuarter.

Methanol is generally produced using fossil fuels, and this facility would be the first of its kind in Europe to offer a sustainable alternative (Montreal-based Enerkem already has one commercial-scale biorefining facility in Canada).

With a projected annual capacity of 360,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste, equivalent to the yearly output of 700,000 households, the facility will produce a predicted 220,000 tonnes (270 million litres) of methanol, and will avoid the need to incinerate the waste.

AzkoNobel and Air Liquide will provide hydrogen and oxygen for the process, while technology from Enerkem will be used to produce the methanol, converting around 90 per cent of the carbon in the waste feedstock to a synthetic gas to be purified into methanol, which will be turned into other chemical raw materials. The partners claim this process can prevent around 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions normally associated with waste disposal from entering the environment.

New Dutch facility to turn waste into chemicals

Peter Nieuwenhuizen, AzkoNobel’s Chief Technology Officer, commented: “We have made vital progress in the past months. The partners have agreed to their contributions and roles, and we are very pleased with the collaboration with the Dutch Government.”

He added that the group plans to go “full steam ahead towards a final investment decision later this year”, with a second round of investment set to bring in a potential £178 million, with hopes of beginning construction towards the end of the year.

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