ExxonMobil Corp.'s Baton Rouge, La., refinery is one of several company sites being considered for a chemical recycling facility similar to one the company already is operating in Texas.
David Oldreive, refinery manager in Baton Rouge for the oil giant, told an online roundtable his company currently is weighing incentives for the proposal with a decision expected in the months ahead.
ExxonMobil opened a chemical recycling facility at the company's Baytown, Texas, refinery late last year with a capacity to handle more than 80 million pounds of difficult-to-recycle plastics each year.
That opening, and consideration of locations elsewhere, comes as the company has made a commitment to create 1 billion pounds of chemical recycling capacity by the end of 2026.
There is a suite of chemical recycling technologies but the most well-known is pyrolysis, which uses heat and pressure in the absence of oxygen to break down plastics into oil, gas and char. That's the process being used by ExxonMobil in Baytown.
"We are assessing installing facilities at the existing Baton Rouge complex to allow processing of plastics not currently able to be mechanically recycled. The proposed advanced recycling facility in Baton Rouge would be similar to ExxonMobil's large-scale facility in Baytown, Texas," Julie King, a company spokeswoman, said in a March 29 email.
"The new equipment would include facilities to receive and store plastics, a new control system to monitor quality of plastic feed, and processing equipment to break down used plastics to raw materials for reprocessing into new products, including lightweight, durable plastics," she said.
ExxonMobil noted other company facilities are also under consideration.
"We are assessing advanced recycling facilities at our Baton Rouge and Beaumont (Texas) complexes, and at other sites around the world, including the Netherlands, Singapore and Canada, with the expectation to have about 1 billion pounds of annual advanced recycling capacity by year-end 2026," King said in an email.
As for Baton Rouge, Oldreive said the project could attract additional jobs beyond those at ExxonMobil. He pointed to the potential of an artificial turf recycler locating in the area and funneling material to the proposed Baton Rouge site.
"We think we can attract additional businesses here to Louisiana. Advanced recycling is exciting because you know what — only 9 percent of the plastics produced today are actually recycled. Why is that? It's kind of difficult. There's all these numbers and things on them. It's hard to know what gets recycled where," he said.
"Advanced recycling helps simplify that. Basically, we chemically break down hard-to-recycle plastics that currently can't be mechanically recycled today. We send them back through our process to make basically virgin new plastic with the same qualities that the original plastic had," the plant manager said.
"Things like bubble wrap, chip bags, dry cleaner bags, industrial shrink wrap, motor oil [containers]. All kinds of stuff cannot be recycled today, and with advanced recycling we believe we can do that," Oldreive said.
While ExxonMobil uses pyrolysis, King previously explained the company's approach is different from stand-alone pyrolysis units other companies have developed. "Our technology co-processes the shredded plastic waste directly in our facilities with other hydrocarbon streams, allowing us to recover more of the molecules produced during the process than a typical stand-alone pyrolysis unit."