Emerson automation for plastics recycling

 ReNew ELP, a UK-based advanced recycling company, has selected Emerson to provide the digital automation for its new plastics recycling plant in Teesside, in the north of England. Emerson’s advanced automation technology and software will help achieve safe, efficient operation of an innovative hydrothermal process that will convert end-of-life plastics back into their original feedstock, enabling the production of new plastic products, reducing waste and pollution.

Currently, many post-consumer plastics, including flexible and multi-layer plastic packaging items, such as films, pots, tubs and trays, are considered ‘unrecyclable’ via traditional mechanical recycling methods and are instead sent to landfill or incinerated. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy, according to the World Economic Forum.

“By converting end-of-life plastics into fossil-replacement feedstocks, ReNew ELP has the potential to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic and make the raw ingredients for a circular plastics economy, creating value instead of waste,” said Richard Daley, managing director, ReNew ELP. “Pivotal to achieving these goals is the construction of this first commercial-scale plant using a unique hydrothermal platform, and in Emerson we have found a valuable, long-term partner to create an advanced automation model for the further plants planned across Europe.”

A model of the proposed ReNew ELP plant

The ReNew ELP plant will utilise a ground-breaking advanced recycling process called HydroPRS™ (Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling System), that uses supercritical steam (high pressure and temperature) to convert waste plastics into the valuable chemicals and oils from which they were originally made. These products can then be used to manufacture new plastics and other materials.

“The HydroPRS process is currently undergoing a Life Cycle Assessment by the Warwick Manufacturing Group to understand both its environmental impacts and Global Warming Potential (GWP), alongside the CO2 savings from diverting plastic waste away from incineration and into advanced recycling,” said Daley. “Initial findings indicate a significantly reduced GWP when compared to energy from waste (incineration) and a favourable comparison to fossil naphtha, supporting the ambition of a viable pathway to net zero.”

As the main automation contractor, Emerson will be responsible for developing a complete automation and control solution to ensure safe, efficient operation of the demanding production process with minimum operator intervention. Emerson’s Project Certainty methodology, which digitalises project execution, will help deliver the plant on budget and on schedule, while its Operational Certainty methodologies will help ReNew ELP realise maximum operational performance and profitability over the lifecycle of the facility.

“Emerson has the ability to support the environmental sustainability goals of industrial companies through greater efficiency, expanded use of cleaner energy sources, emissions capture and improved management of waste materials,” said Roel Van Doren, group president of global sales at Emerson. “Through collaborative project engineering, advanced digital solutions and lifecycle services, Emerson will help ReNew ELP create a solution that supports sustainable practices and helps advance our goals to preserve resources.”

As part of the automation solution, Emerson will provide an integrated control and safety system, incorporating its DeltaV distributed control system and DeltaV safety instrumented system for process and emergency shutdown, plus fire and gas detection. The Emerson Plantweb digital ecosystem, incorporating wired and wireless networks that support clusters of advanced measurement instrumentation, will provide visibility to process performance and actionable data about equipment health. The automation system will feature a broad range of severe service and general-purpose control valves, on/off valves and pressure control technology. A range of asset management solutions will be deployed to enhance equipment reliability and increase process availability and throughput, while minimising the time operators spend in the field performing manual inspections.

The plant is expected to become operational in late 2022, with the first phase including one of four recycling lines, each able to process 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.

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