BASF SE is giving thought to launching Japanese chemical recycling operations – a move that would see the German-based company convert plastic and tire waste into pyrolysis oil for use as a raw material in steam crackers. This comes as part of a global effort on BASF’s part to replace 250,000 tons of fossil raw materials with those that are recycled or waste-based by 2025. BASF is looking at a number of options here, including benchmarking Japanese pyrolysis oil partners and technologies, bringing in its own technologies, and models for collaboration with Japanese chemical companies.
The company’s German headquarters has been using pyrolysis oil from plastic waste as part of its raw material selection for steam crackers ever since 2018. In terms of raw material procurement here, BASF has been working with Norway’s Quantafuel ASA – which specializes in the thermal decomposition and refinement of plastic waste – to maximize the production volume that can be utilized as raw material for chemicals. Under this deal, BASF has first right of refusal on up to 16,000 tons in product capacity per year. BASF has also deepened its relationship with Hungary’s New Energy Kft. and fellow German company Pyrum Innovations AG, which are similarly engaged in thermal decomposition.
The technical issue when it comes to using plastic waste as raw material for steam crackers is the mixing in of impurities: chlorine and sulfur can result in plant corrosion; while oxygen and nitrogen are liable to cause explosions. So in its collaboration with Quantafuel, BASF has developed a catalyst that can help crack and hydrogenate plastic waste into pyrolysis oil that is 99.9 percent carbon and hydrogen.
With its mass balance approach, BASF is allocating recycled raw materials to final products at a ratio that fits within a given input range. This approach means that even if fossil materials are utilized as well, it is still possible to market a portion of production output as being made from 100 percent renewable raw materials, thereby allowing BASF to meet more advanced needs.