GREEN SOLUTION: Soft plastics, decarbonised diesel part of Viva recycling plan

May 26, 2023 BY


AN AUSTRALIAN-FIRST project at Geelong Refinery would divert plastic waste and feedstocks from landfill for conversion into new products and carbon-reduced fuels in an expanded recycling initiative.

Viva Energy this week announced plans to build infrastructure at its Corio processing facility that will lead to the country’s first commercial production of recycled plastic form soft waste plastics.

The company would also expand its processing bio-feedstocks – such as cooking oil, animal fats and synthetic crude made from waste plastics – to blend with crude oil produced at Geelong Refinery to reduce the fuel’s carbon intensity.

Plastic recycling is considered one of Australia’s greatest recycling challenges, a problem that received national attention with the collapse of recovery business REDcycle late last year.

A 2021 federal government study found that Australia used 3.4 million tonnes of plastic annually – 84 per cent of which goes to landfill.

Viva’s facility will heat soft plastics and turn it into a crude product, which it can then process and produce new products.

A pilot project launched in 2021 alongside local technology start-up Licella created food-grade propylene for a feedstock manufacturer, and a metallised film that became a prototype for recycled KitKat wrappers.

Viva Energy’s chief business development and sustainability officer Lachlan Pfeiffer said he was excited to see the project’s expansion.

“What RedCYCLE and others were largely doing was taking soft plastics and compacting them down, putting them into things like hard plastic.

“This is proper recycling.”

Meanwhile, Viva’s recycling expansion will also include modifications to existing diesel fuel refining infrastructure that would allow the machines to accept biofuels during production.

Mr Pfeiffer said the change was a step toward replacing fuels traditionally produced entirely from fossil sources.

“Biofuels have been around for a while, but only small amounts in Australia.

“What we’re doing is getting biofuels and putting it through existing processing infrastructure at Geelong that will create a renewable diesel.

“That’s effectively going through the same units as our normal diesel production, and refines it to what could go in any engine.”

Mr Pfeiffer said Viva’s processing plant was “as big as any facility in the country producing biofuels”, which he said would continue to expand with the latest announcement.

“It starts small – that’s a few thousand tonnes a year – but we would like to grow that.

“The only limits to growing it is getting our hands on more feedstock.”

Viva said it expected to source raw materials from local manufacturers and suppliers and that it would commence processing in late 2024, with capacity to accept 50,000 tonnes of product per year.

Mr Pfeiffer said the company hoped its method could be expanded across Australia once it was proven to be commercially viable.

“This is pretty exciting for us. We’re using existing infrastructure that really solve climate and recycling issues.

“It’s a good use of technology that we’ve already got that can be part of a solution going forward.

“We’re looking forward to getting on with this and proving it works.”