Shell invests in plastic waste-to-chemicals technology company
Photo courtesy of BlueAlp Holding

Shell invests in plastic waste-to-chemicals technology company

Shell Ventures BV and BlueAlp Holding BV announced a strategic partnership to develop, scale and deploy BlueAlp’s plastic waste-to-chemical feedstock technology. The technology transforms plastic waste which is tough to recycle into a recycled feedstock, i.e. pyrolysis oil, that can be used to make sustainable chemicals. Shell has taken a 21.25% equity stake in BlueAlp as part of the agreement.

Established in 1996 as one of the first corporate venture funds in the oil and gas industry, Shell Ventures works with startups and small & medium enterprises (SMEs) from their early stages to their scale and growth phases to help commercialise innovative businesses. Shell Ventures makes minority investments that help to develop new technologies and disruptive business models in areas of strategic interest to Shell’s global businesses.

Advancing plastic waste recycling technology

“With BlueAlp’s innovative technology and Shell’s size and experience we can advance the plastic waste recycling technology needed to meet growing customer demand for sustainable chemicals. This partnership is one of the important steps Shell is taking to reach our ambition of recycling one million tonnes of plastics waste a year in our global chemicals plants by 2025,’’ said Robin Mooldijk, executive vice president, Shell Chemicals and Products.

“We are also working across the value chain to provide our customers with a secure supply of high-quality circular products, including collaborating with industry partners to drive the development of the infrastructure needed to collect and sort plastic waste.”

Under the agreement, Shell and BlueAlp will form a joint-venture company to build two new conversion units in The Netherlands, which are forecast to convert more than 30 kilotons (KT) of plastic waste per year. The units are planned to be operational in 2023 and will supply 100% of their pyrolysis oil as feedstock to Shell’s Moerdijk and Rhineland crackers. Shell is exploring licensing a further two units for deployment within Asia to supply the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park in Singapore.

Global leader in pyrolysis market

“BlueAlp’s aim is to efficiently transform plastic waste into a useable and economic product, and we have developed an exciting and innovative technology. With Shell as a strategic partner, I believe BlueAlp has a great opportunity to grow into a global leader in the pyrolysis market,” said Chris van der Ree, CTO of BlueAlp. “Our immediate focus is to increase the technology’s current processing capacity and then license our technology to third-parties. This I expect will help communities worldwide put hard to recycle plastic waste to better use.”

BlueAlp’s technology has already been developed to a commercial scale. Shell’s technology team, based in Amsterdam, will now work with BlueAlp to further improve and scale-up the technology’s capacity to recycle larger volumes of plastic waste. Production of larger volumes of pyrolysis oil is also hindered by inconsistent purity of feedstocks. Shell plans to deploy its own technology to upgrade the purity of pyrolysis oil in its assets. These technology developments are pivotal to achieving circularity by turning hard to recycle plastic waste into sustainable chemicals.

With this announcement, Shell stated that it will be able to support more of its customers to achieve their sustainability goals. It follows a successful pilot using pyrolysis oil at the Moerdijk petrochemicals plant in August 2021 and the increased use of recycled feed at Shell’s Norco petrochemical complex in the U.S.A. since November 2019.

BlueAlp’s other shareholders include Mourik, Renasci, Den Hartog, and Rumali BV.