Novacrack® – feedstock recycling of mixed plastics waste

Introduction

The environmental challenge of dealing with mixed plastics waste, a major concern for the waste industry, local authorities and increasingly for households, has opened a commercial opportunity for the petrochemical sector. A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Manchester has developed a rapid depolymerisation process, NovaCrack®, based on catalytic hydrocracking. With attractive process economics, it offers a sustainable source of naphtha and other valuable hydrocarbons, suitable for conversion back to virgin polymers, reducing reliance on crude oil and closing the loop towards the circular economy.

The technology

NovaCrack® can consume a mixed polymer feed, including PE, PP, PS, PET and PVC, which make up 74% of EU plastics demand and which are all found in the municipal waste stream, to yield a clean, low-sulfur, naphtha-rich hydrocarbon stream suitable for supplementing cracker feedstock.

The key innovation arises from the use of a novel, patent-protected catalyst system, enabling the design of a continuous process, due to the dramatically increased reaction rates and lower temperatures involved.

The process conditions are considerably less severe and significantly faster than existing technologies, and the process is PVC tolerant.

Key benefits

NovaCrack® is differentiated from pyrolysis and waste-to-energy processes in that it retains a substantial proportion of the underlying value of commodity polymers and is not constrained by the presence of PVC.

  • Cost effective source of naphtha substitute for the petrochemical industry.
  • Rapid process able to handle mixed plastics waste, including films, PVC and PET.
  • Carbon benefits from diversion of plastics from landfill / RDF and by reducing dependence on the use of crude oil in plastics manufacture.

Intellectual property

This comprises an international patent portfolio, both granted and pending, with filings anticipated in associated technology areas.

The opportunity

The University of Manchester continues its research in this area following a 5-year EPSRC grant on Catalysis for the Circular Economy that will further de-risk the process. The next stage in commercialisation is scale-up to continuous operation via a mini-plant operating in the range 1 – 10 kg/hr.

With support from several organisations in this sector, UMIP is now seeking interest from companies willing to develop NovaCrack® with the University, using funding from sources including Innovate UK, leading to full commercialisation by the grant of appropriate licenses.

Contact

Simon Clarke, IP Development Manager, UMIP, Core Technology Facility, 48 Grafton Street, Manchester M13 9NT : Simon.Clarke@umip.com: Tel: +44 (0) 161 306 8510

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