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Comment Sustainability

Repsol joins Enerkem and Agbar to build a waste-to-chemicals plant in Tarragona

By Mary Page Bailey |

Repsol S.A. (Madrid, Spain) announced that it will join the Ecoplanta project, together with Enerkem (Montréal, Québec, Canada) and Grupo Agbar (Barcelona, Spain), to build a waste-to-chemicals plant in Tarragona, Spain. Under the joint venture Ecoplanta Molecular Recycling Solutions, the plant will process around 400,000 tons of non-recyclable municipal solid waste from its surrounding regions and produce 220,000 tons of methanol. This methanol will be used as raw material to produce circular materials or advanced biofuels, contributing to avoid 200,000 tons of CO2 and reducing the waste that ends up in the landfill. This alliance is a further step towards the multi-energy company’s ambition to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050.

The plant, the first of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula, will be co-managed by Repsol and Agbar, whilst Enerkem will be the key technological partner. The plant is projected to be in operation in 2025 after taking the project’s final investment decision by the first quarter of 2022. The project already obtained the Integrated Environmental Authorization and the approval of the Environmental Impact Statement from the local authorities.

Repsol has a leading industrial complex in Tarragona, a factor that will allow for synergies among the facilities. This petrochemical complex is the most important of its kind in Spain. Among the many types of polymers produced there, the range of highly specialized products for the automotive sector, such as high impact resistant polymers, stands out.

According to Jose Luis Bernal, Repsol’s Executive Director for Chemicals: “We are very pleased to join forces with relevant waste management and innovative technology partners, showing our commitment to circular economy and reinforcing our commitment to recycle 20% of our polyolefins production by 2030.”

The plant will use gasification technology to transform municipal solid waste, a very complex process due to its heterogeneous nature, into high value-added products such as methanol. Enerkem is the owner of this patented state-of-the-art technology, the first to be tested on an industrial scale, after a rigorous scale-up from pilot to demonstration to commercial scale that took place over a decade, in its commercial demonstration plant in operation in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), and a new facility under construction in Varennes (Québec, Canada). The Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Enerkem, Dominique Boies, mentioned: “We are proud to welcome Repsol as a partner to further support our Tarragona facility. Their strong expertise of the industry, coupled with that of Agbar, will enable us to feature the numerous benefits associated with our unique disruptive technology, transforming waste into renewable plastics or advanced biofuels.”

With this significant investment, the project has been selected to move into stage 2 of the European Union Innovation Fund, which focuses on highly innovative technologies and big flagship projects within Europe to bring on significant emission reductions.

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