Updated — A massive plastic recycling-to-diesel fuel operation costing hundreds of millions of dollars is planned for rural Indiana.
It's a project that aims to divert millions of pounds of waste plastics created by automobile shredders from landfill disposal each year.
GEP Fuel & Energy Indiana said its project that will begin construction next year will result in as many as 256 new jobs and ultimately handle 1,500 tons of recycled plastics every day.
“We're basically going to take end-of-life plastics,” said Steve Hogan, president of GEP Fuel & Energy. “The versatility of this technology is such that they can efficiently make high-quality fuel out of basically low-quality plastics.”
Automotive shredder residue is basically what's left after a vehicle is shredded and steel and other metals are recovered for recycling. It's a difficult stream to recover and typically ends up in landfills. A significant portion of the material, hundreds of pounds per vehicle, is various types of plastics.
The Indiana project is being supported by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a state agency that's promised up to $2 million in conditional tax credits that will be based on the number of jobs created.
The project includes a $100 million recycling center near Camden in Carroll County that will handle both “recyclable and non-recyclable waste plastic.” Another $200 million will be spend on a plastics-to-diesel facility adjacent to the recycling center, the state said. County officials put the total project value at $300 million to $410 million.
Hogan said that he understands there is a level of skepticism about the economic viability of pyrolysis projects.
“This is a lot of money, and there's a lot of skepticism. And we're fine with that. We've been skeptics, too,” he said. “We've kicked the tires on all this stuff [different technologies].”
“I'd say, ‘All right. Watch us do it,'” Hogan said.
GEP Fuel & Energy expects to “create up to 256 high-wage jobs by 2020,” according to the IEDC. Those jobs will have salaries that are 50-percent higher than the local average wage, the state said. Average annual salaries will range from $43,680 to $49,920, the county reported.
That includes 91 people working at the plastics-to-diesel refinery by the end of 2018 and 155 to 165 at the recycling center, called Camden Recycling LLC, by 2020, according to the Carroll County Economic Development Corp.
Hogan said GEP Fuel & Energy is partnering with Foy Group Ltd. of Australia to use that company's pyrolysis technology, one that creates “drop-in” fuel that can be blended directly in with other transportation fuels. Creating lower value fuels, which would sell for less or need further refinement, is just not economically feasible for the project, he said.
State and local officials, in making the announcement, touted the benefits of locating in Indiana, including the state's infrastructure and “business climate.”
GEP Fuel & Energy is building new facilities for both the plastic recycling and fuel making operations because the site selected is along a rail line operated by a sister company of joint venture partner U.S. Energy Logistics Corp. of Toledo, Ohio. Transportation cost benefits outweigh any savings the company might achieve by using existing buildings elsewhere, Hogan said.
“When you are dealing with waste plastics, transportation is a huge component of costs,” he said. The company also will receive tipping fees from automobile shredders to take their plastics. “It's a significant revenue generator,” Hogan said, but will still be lower than what shredders would otherwise pay for landfill disposal.
Ann Brown has been a member of Carroll County Council for 14 year and indicated in a statement that this is the largest project in the county “by far” during her tenure. “This project brings high-paying jobs and will make our strong local economy more diverse and stronger,” she said in a statement.
Camden, located about a half-hour northeast of Lafayette in north central Indiana and has a population of about 600 people. The entire county has about 20,000 people.
Sites in Texas and Pennsylvania were in the running for the project, the county said.