Repsol to produce methanol from municipal waste in Tarragona
Photo courtesy of Repsol

Repsol to produce methanol from municipal waste in Tarragona

Repsol will build a methanol plant from municipal solid waste in Tarragona, Spain, together with technology leader Enerkem based in Montreal, Canada, and Agbar, a global expert in water and waste management.

Under the joint venture Ecoplanta Molecular Recycling Solutions, the plant will process around 400,000 tons of non-recyclable municipal solid waste from surrounding regions and produce 220,000 tons of methanol. The 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 Repsol’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, while  Enerkem will be the key technological partner. The plant is projected to be operational in 2025, following the project’s final investment decision by the first quarter of 2022. The project has 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.  

“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,” said Jose Luis Bernal, Repsol’s executive director for Chemicals.

The plant will use gasification technology to transform municipal solid waste, a very complex process because of 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. 

“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,” said Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Enerkem, Dominique Boies.

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.