Polypropylene recycler PureCycle Technologies LLC has a deal with the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Belgium, to locate the company's first plant in Europe.
The Orlando, Fla.-based company now has to figure out financing and feedstock sourcing for the site at the port's NextGen District, a former automobile manufacturing parcel that's being repurposed for circular economy projects.
"There was always an expectation that we bring capacity to Europe. We've been trying to figure out the best way to crack that nut over the last two years," PureCycle CEO Dustin Olson said in a Jan. 18 phone interview from Europe.
Work has been ongoing for the past 18 months on site selection, feedstock sourcing and off-take agreements, he said. PureCycle beat out seven or eight other applicant companies looking to win approval to locate in the NextGen District in the most current round of project consideration, the company said.
PureCycle plans an initial annual processing capacity of 130 million pounds, or 59,000 metric tons, with the opportunity to expand to approximately 500 million pounds, or 240,000 metric tons. The company will utilize about 35 acres (14 hectares) of 217-acre (88-hectare) former automotive site. Initial planning will involve one recycling line, but the company said the location will have enough room to host up to four lines in the future.
"The NextGen District is a redevelopment of a former General Motors site. … It now has attracted a number of companies that are active in circularity and sustainability space. So, logically, we fit very well with that," said Wiebe Schipper, PureCycle's vice president of European operations, during the phone interview. He is in charge of PureCycle's efforts to expand in Europe.
Olson estimates the project in Belgium will cost $250 million to $300 million. Work now begins to put financing in place.
"The overall financing market has been challenging for the last six to 12 months," Olson said. "General financing has been very difficult.
"That's no different anywhere in the world. The one area that we're optimistic is the appetite in Europe for sustainability and fully-circular projects. Our project is a fully-circular solution for polypropylene. It can go around and around and around. And that's what the world is looking for. The appetite for the solution that we bring is very high in Europe," Olson said.
The company expects to have a primary focus on financing during the next three to six months.
The project's completion is targeted for the end of 2025 or early 2026 at this point, the CEO said, adding there still is a lot of supply chain difficulties that ultimately could alter that timeline.
"Being in NextGen District will enable us to capitalize on existing efficiencies, collaborate with other innovators in the space and forge new partnerships," Schipper said in a separate statement. "The announcement of our first location in Europe marks the next phase in executing PureCycle's global growth strategy."
PureCycle, meanwhile, is nearing startup of the company's first plant in Ironton, Ohio, and has plans for a second facility in Augusta, Ga. The firm also has a deal with SK Geo Centric to bring its solvent-based technology to South Korea.
The company had hoped to start producing recycled PP pellets in Ironton by the end of 2022, but that timeframe has been pushed into the first quarter of 2023, Olson said, partially due to a delay in equipment delivery. The last of the equipment needed, an extruder, now has been delivered as Ironton prepares to start production.
Regarding the new project, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is located in Flanders, Belgium's northern region. "PureCycle's purification technology is a game changer within the circular economy and will have a major impact on making plastics — and preeminently the chemical cluster around the Port of Antwerp-Bruges — even more sustainable," Flanders Minister-President Jan Jambon said in a statement.
PureCycle, which uses solvents to purify used PP, expects to create 65 to 70 new jobs at the facility during an initial phase. The company licenses technology developed by Procter & Gamble Co.
Funding for the project could include traditional financing as well as grants and subsidies available through the European Union for circular projects., the company said. PureCycle expects to have a project timeline in place by the middle of this year and expects to secure the necessary project permits in 2024.
The NextGen location will provide PureCycle with options when it comes to receiving feedstock and delivering finished products, Olson said, thanks to the availability of road, rail and, ultimately, water transportation. "Having a facility in the Antwerp location is very strategic for us because it gives us access to all three modes of transportation in that one location," he said.
PureCycle will rely on technology already developed in the United States in a "cut-and-paste" approach to create the company's first European location, the CEO said.