Plastic recycling is the goal of Saipem’s latest technological solution presented at the 2019 mcT Petrolchimico, an event dedicated to professionals operating in the petrochemical, oil and gas, and chemical industries held recently in Milan.
Originally designed for applications in the oil and gas sector, the technology is well suited to solid urban waste disposal, in particular unsorted plastic.
Saipem has in fact signed a licence agreement with ITEA S.p.A, an Italian company that owns the patent, for application of the technology in a variety of settings.
Up till now, plastic recycling from differentiated waste has been rather limited. In fact, according to recent studies, only 30% of material collected is recycled, leaving unsolved the problem of “Plasmix”, non-recyclable mixed plastics consisting of a group of heterogeneous plastics included in post-consumption wrappings which cannot be recovered as single polymers.
Conversely, the new technology fine-tuned by ITEA involves a process of plastic decomposition called “flameless oxy-combustion”. This produces water, energy and pure CO2, which is not emitted into the atmosphere, but which is ideal for use as a product destined for the market. Furthermore, the process is very flexible, relatively simple and can be exploited even in small-sized facilities. It is hoped that, in the future, it will lead to a noteworthy increase in the percentage of recyclable material in a sustainable way.
Another advantage of the technology is that it affords the possibility to process Plasmix along with sewage sludge deriving from the treatment of wastewater, a material which at present is difficult to dispose of.
Mauro Piasere, COO of Saipem’s XSIGHT Division, explains, “Plastic recycling is an objective of great interest to Saipem, although further studies and technologies are required. However, we do not want to remain immobile while our seas and soils are being polluted by plastic. The widespread application of the oxy-combustion process could facilitate recovery of the precious energy content of waste plastics while avoiding their dispersion. Use of this technology confirms our ability to adapt oil and gas technologies to new market demands and to support our clients by providing them with solutions targeted at achieving greater sustainability.”