Green Materials: Eni/Corepla to produce hydrogen from packaging waste

Italian energy firm Eni has tied up with the National Consortium for the Collection, Recycling and Recovery of Plastic Packaging (Corepla) to research into the production of hydrogen from non-recyclable plastics packaging waste.

A joint working group will over the next six months assess the launching of research projects to produce hydrogen and high-quality biofuels from plastic waste. It will also analyse the types of waste that can be used to develop a circular economy process and maximise recovery, in line with new EU directives.

In sorted waste, plastic packaging is separated and sent to be recycled so it can be reused, mostly by transforming it into chips or grains, which then become raw material for creating new products. But not everything can be recycled.

Plasmix is the collective name for the different plastics in used packaging that currently have no use in the market of recycling. Almost all of it goes towards energy recovery, apart from a small fraction that ends up in landfills.

With the Eni/Corepla joint venture, the firms believe that some of it can instead be recycled and transformed into new raw material.

Through this agreement, Eni says it is also strengthening and developing its strategy to apply the principles of the circular economy to its business, based on research and newly developed technologies.

Since 2014, thanks to the Ecofining patent, Eni has been producing biofuels from used cooking and frying oil, animal fat and other non-edible waste, in Porto Marghera and, shortly, also in Gela.

Hydrogen is an essential part of the production process, as it neutralises the oxygen in vegetable oil and converts the triglycerides into paraffins and isoparaffins, thereby completely removing the sulphur, nitrogen and polyaromatic hydrocarbons from the biofuel.

Another important element of the Eni circular economy is Waste to Fuel. A pilot plant has been built in Gela to test production of bio-oil and biomethane taken from the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW).

The results will be crucial in the announced production on an industrial scale at the plants in Ravenna, Porto Marghera, and potential other disused industrial sites in Italy and even other countries.

Corepla, the National Consortium for the Collection, Recycling and Recovery of Plastic Packaging, has more than 2,600 companies as members.