LYB is building its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Germany. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

This month, LyondellBasell has announced it has officially pulled the trigger on a new recycling plant in Germany.

Dutch chemicals leader LYB, as the company has rebranded recently, has made its final investment decision to build its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Wesseling, Germany.

The project is reported to be the first "commercial scale, single-train advanced recycling plant to convert post-consumer plastic waste into feedstock for production of new plastic materials that can be ran at net zero GHG emissions," per LYB's news release.

The plant will utilize LYB's MoReTec technology, which targets difficult to recycle plastics like mixed or flexible materials, and have an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year. The amount expected to be recycled annually will equal plastic packaging waste generated by over 1.2 million German citizens per year.

"We are committed to addressing the global challenge of plastic waste and advancing a circular economy, and today's announcement is another meaningful step in that direction," says Peter Vanacker, LYB CEO, in the release. "Scaling up our catalytic advanced recycling technology will allow us to return larger volumes of plastic waste back into the value chain. By doing this, we will have the ability to produce more materials for high-quality applications, retaining value of plastics for as long as possible."

The plant's construction is anticipated to be done by the end of 2025. The majority of the sorted processed feedstock will be supplied by Source One Plastics, a joint venture of LYB and 23 Oaks Investments that formed in October 2022.

A few weeks ago, LYB purchased a 25 percent stake in a joint venture that seeks to accelerate advancements in plastic recycling. The joint venture, Cyclyx International, was formed in 2020 by Spring-based energy giant ExxonMobil and Tigard, Oregon-based plastic recycling innovator Agilyx.

In 2022, Cyclyx announced it had inked a deal with ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell to develop a first-of-its-kind plastic waste sorting and processing plant in the Houston area. The estimated $100 million facility, set to open in 2024, is poised to annually produce 330 million pounds of plastic feedstock, which is made up of recycled materials that can be used to manufacture new plastics.

Lummus Technology will roll out its advanced plastics recycling technology in South Korea. Photo via Canva

Houston company secures deal to launch recycling tech in South Korea

growing biz

A Houston-based company with a suite of technologies and energy solutions has announced a new deal that will take its business to South Korea.

Lummus Technology reached an agreement with Dongyang Environment Group to roll out Lummus' advanced plastics recycling technology in Seosan, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea, and will be operated by Dongyang Environment's subsidiary, Seohae Green Chemical.

"We are pleased to announce this agreement with Dongyang Environment, one of South Korea's leading providers of energy and environmental services," Greg Shumake, vice president and managing director of Green Circle, says in a press release. "This is a significant step forward in our commitment to the circular economy and to deploying advanced plastics recycling technology in South Korea and other key markets around the world."

Lummus' Green Circle technology converts plastic waste into chemicals and feedstocks, creating circularity. The platform "concentrates and expands Lummus Technology’s capabilities to capture new opportunities in the energy transition and circular economy," per the release.

"Dongyang's resource recycling and energy conversion expertise and Lummus' world-class technology will create strong synergies," Byung Jin Song, the head of Dongyang Environment R&D center, says in the release. "Additionally, Dongyang will strengthen its position in the chemical recycling industry, offering more sustainable products and increased value to our customers."

Last month, Lummus remarked that its interested in expanding contracts in the Middle East.

"Our focus on sustainability is the right thing to do for our employees, for our customers, and for our communities." Photo courtesy of EthosEnergy

Houston energy leader on why the industry needs to implement circular economy, other sustainable initiatives

Q&A

When Ana Amicarella took the helm of EthosEnergy in 2019, she had no idea of the challenges that awaited her company, the industry, and the world.

But Amicarella, a former synchronized swimmer from Venezuela who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics who has three decades of leadership experience at energy companies, has what it took to steer the ship in the choppy waters that was the pandemic, the ongoing energy transition, and more.

In a discussion with EnergyCapital, she shares how she navigated that difficult time and how important she feels it is that energy companies are committed to reducing their carbon footprints — especially through tapping into the circular economy.

EnergyCapital: How have you led EthosEnergy through the past few difficult years? What were the company’s biggest challenges and how did you address them?

Ana Amicarella: Growing EthosEnergy into a global powerhouse with hundreds of millions in turnover within nine years was a formidable task. Since our inception in 2014, we've expanded to 94 locations with 4,000 employees, becoming a leading provider of rotating equipment services in the power, oil, and gas sectors. However, when I assumed the role of CEO in December 2019, the company had evolved into a complex, unwieldy structure with missed opportunities and unsustainable overheads, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, we were already on the path to transformation. COVID-19 accelerated our OneEthos strategy, focused on simplifying our business, fostering a new culture, and strengthening client relationships. Extensive listening exercises were held with staff and customers in March 2020 that led to a restructuring plan that was swiftly approved by the board. On July 1, 2020, we launched the new structure, emphasizing that this transformation went beyond organizational changes. Our simplified OneEthos plan focuses on core strengths, eliminating unprofitable activities, embracing cultural principles, and maintaining an unwavering commitment to quality and consistency for our customers. We've also shifted our perspective on capital expenditures, aligning them with energy transition goals to become the preferred partner for critical rotating equipment, offering assistance with end-of-life equipment and carbon footprint reduction as our key value proposition.

EC: How is EthosEnergy future-proofing its business amid the energy transition?

AA: We believe we have a moral responsibility to take a leading role in shaping a better future for us and for generations to come – essentially, we are trying to "Turn on Tomorrow." Our focus on sustainability is the right thing to do for our employees, for our customers, and for our communities. I like to say that behind our company’s name is a team of people. Behind our customers’ names are teams of people. Together we all share common communities, a common environment, and a common reliance on transparent, ethical practices.

A few years ago, we introduced a framework to help us build growth, financial sustainability and deliver long-term value. Our aim is to create value and improve our economic, social, and environmental impact by focusing in the following six areas: Policies and Procedures, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Environmental Footprint, Engineering Solutions, Alliances and Partnerships, and Third-Party Suppliers. As an example, for Environmental Footprint we are implementing programs to install LED lighting in our facilities, implement more robust environmental recycling and waste reduction plans, and identify other energy efficiency programs around the company. From a third-party supplier’s perspective, we are focused on increasing our spend with minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses. In the last two years, we’ve increased spend in those categories by 35 percent in the US alone. And, we are working towards issuing our first sustainability report in the near future.

EC: How does EthosEnergy help customers shrink their carbon footprint and why is that important to you as a business?

AA: Concerns about climate change have started to exert pressure on conventional business models that follow a linear approach of "take, make, dispose" – a system where we acquire new items, use them, and then discard them when they are no longer needed.

A circular economy approach, on the other hand, disconnects economic activities from excessive material and energy consumption by establishing closed-loop systems where waste and carbon-footprint is minimized, and resources are repeatedly used. Even industries traditionally adhering to linear models, like oil and gas and utilities, can incorporate elements of circularity into their operations. EthosEnergy explores the possibilities that circularity offers to companies in the power generation, oil and gas, and industrial sectors, aiming to revitalize and extend the lifespan of existing assets.

To transition from a linear economy to a circular one, we must focus on three key aspects: optimizing product usage, giving priority to renewable inputs, and effectively recovering by-products and waste.

EC: What sort of technology are you tapping into to help achieve these goals?

AA: The adoption of reusing equipment in the energy industry has room for improvement. There's significant potential for reusing rather than disposing of equipment when it nears decommissioning. Our mission is to offer solutions that are economically, socially, and environmentally beneficial, aimed at prolonging the lifespan of existing equipment. EthosEnergy has already developed a range of solutions for life extension and emissions compliance to help existing assets meet critical targets. This has a noteworthy impact on reducing CO2 emissions in two key ways: first, by avoiding the production of new equipment and thus preventing emissions during manufacturing, and second, by deferring or even eliminating the recycling of older assets.

Additionally, there's an opportunity to enhance the environmental performance of existing assets by increasing their efficiency through regeneration and enabling them to operate with lower-carbon alternative fuels like hydrogen. We've actively collaborated with a university in Italy, Politecnico di Torino, on this front, recognizing that partnerships between universities and industries will play a pivotal role in shaping our future.

We firmly believe that greater collaboration and alignment between business, social, and environmental factors are essential for achieving success in these endeavors.

EC: What’s your leadership style and how do you navigate the challenges that come with being a female CEO in a male-dominated industry?

AA: I would best describe my leadership style as inclusive and engaging. I firmly believe in the power of teamwork and fostering a culture where diverse voices are not only heard but valued. My leadership approach is rooted in transparency, open communication, and a commitment to empowering individuals within the organization to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

In a male-dominated industry, being relentless is a necessity. I approach challenges with unwavering determination and persistence. I use adversity as motivation to push forward and break down barriers. My relentless pursuit of excellence sets an example for my team and reinforces the idea that gender should never limit one's aspirations.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tired of slow tire decomposition? This Houston company has a solution. Photo via InnoVentRenewables.com

New Houston company launches to turn recycled materials into fuel

renewables

Every year, over a billion tires are disposed of globally, and, while in use, tires are used to reach maximum speed on the road, their decomposition times are inordinately slow.

Houston-based InnoVent Renewables has a solution. The company launched this week to drive renewable energy forward with its proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals.

“We are thrilled to formally launch InnoVent Renewables and plan to ramp-up operations into early 2024," InnoVent Renewables CEO Vibhu Sharma says in a news release. “Our investors, strategic advisors, and management team are all fully committed to our success as we address the global challenge of waste tires. We firmly believe our proven process, deployed at scale globally, will have a huge positive impact on our climate and fill a clear environment need.”

While InnoVent Renewables has only just launched, Sharma has worked in the space for years with his company InnoVent Technology, a technology and consulting company working with clients on turnkey process technology and asset management solutions within the process and manufacturing industries.

During InnoVent's unique material breakdown process, its pyrolysis technology recovers chemicals from the products, and produces high-quality fuels — in in a net-zero capacity. The company's products include renewable pyrolysis oil, or PyOil; aromatics; recovered carbon black, or rCB; and steel wire. PyOil, according to InnoVent's website, can be sold as fuel oil, off-road diesel, or used as a feedstock to crude blending.

"The InnoVent team conducted product quality analysis in conjunction with a world renowned research facility and results were further validated and scaled up in 2022, using comprehensive process simulation software and pre-engineering design work for scale-up," reads the InnoVent website.

Headquartered in Houston, the company has operations in Pune, India, and Monterrey, Mexico, with plans for aggressive growth across North America and Latin America. Specifically, InnoVent is planning to open a commercial production plant in Monterrey next year. Down the road, the company's team hopes to expand in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific.

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Houston startup taps new corporate partner for AI-backed sustainability consumer tech

out of the boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston software company to manage IRA compliance for solar, storage company with national presence

tapping into tech

Houston company's Inflation Reduction Act compliance management software has scored a new partner.

Empact Technologies announced a multi-year agreement with Ampliform, which originates, builds, develops, and operates utility-scale solar and solar plus storage projects. The Empact platform uses a combination of software and services to ensure projects meet IRS regulatory requirements, which focus on wage and apprenticeship, domestic content, and energy and low-income community incentives. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed

Empact will partner specifically with Ampliform’s project Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms, subcontractors, and key suppliers of steel and iron products. In addition, they will work through a project’s life cycle for EPC’s solar modules, trackers, and inverters to manage prevailing wage & apprenticeship, domestic content, and other tax incentive qualification and compliance.

“The team at Ampliform had the leadership and foresight to recognize the significant risks of IRA non-compliance and the need to have third party compliance management in place prior to construction kick-off," Charles Dauber, CEO and founder of Empact, says in a news release. We look forward to helping Ampliform fully leverage the IRA tax incentives to develop and build their project development pipeline.”

Ampliform has approximately 700MW of projects in short-term development. Ampliform also plans 3GW of projects in its development pipeline. Ampliform’s future expansion plans exceed more than 13GWdc in total. Empact will manage the IRA compliance for these projects. According to a Goldman Sachs report, the IRA is estimated to provide $1.2 trillion of incentives by 2032.

Guest column: Cold weather and electric vehicles — separating fact from fiction

EVs in winter

Winter range loss is fueling this season’s heated debate around the viability of electric vehicles, but some important context is needed. Gasoline cars, just like their electric counterparts, lose a significant amount of range in cold weather too.

According to the Department of Energy, the average internal combustion engine’s fuel economy is 15 percent lower at 20° Fahrenheit than it would be at 77° Fahrenheit, and can drop as much as 24 percent for short drives.

As the world grapples with the implications of climate change and shifts toward sustainable technologies, it's important to put the pros and cons of EVs and traditional gas vehicles in perspective. And while Houston isn't known as the coldest of climates, you still might want to review this information.

The Semantics of Energy Consumption Hide the Real Issue: Cost

First, let's talk about the language. When discussing gas vehicles in cold climates, the conversation often centers around "fuel efficiency." It sounds less threatening, doesn't it? But in reality, this is just a euphemism for range loss, something for which EVs are frequently criticized.

Why does that matter? Because for most drivers who travel less than 40 miles a day, what range loss really means is higher fueling costs. When a gas vehicle loses range, it costs a lot more than the same range loss in an EV. For example, at $3.50 a gallon, a car that gets 30 MPG in warm weather and costs $46.67 to go 400 miles suddenly costs $8.24 more to drive the same distance. By contrast, an EV plugging in at $0.13 per kWh usually costs $13 to go 400 miles and bumps up to a piddly $16.25 even if it loses 20 percent efficiency when the temperature drops.

Some EV models lose 40 percent in extreme cold. OK, tack on another $3. That still leaves almost $30 in the driver’s pocket. Over the course of a year, those savings pile up.

Let’s Call It What It Is: Fear Mongering

Any seismic shift in technology comes with consumer hesitancy and media skepticism. Remember when everyone was afraid to stand in front of microwaves and thought the waves would make the food unsafe to eat? Or how, just a decade or so back everyone was talking about how cell phones could spontaneously explode?

Fear of new technology is a natural psychological response and to be expected. But it takes the media machine to turn consumer hesitation into a frenzy. Any way you slice it, 2023 was one big platform for expressing fears around EVs. Headline-grabbing tales of EV woes often lacked context or understanding of the technology. In a highly partisan landscape where EVs have been dubbed liberal leftist technology, what should be seen as a miraculous pro-American, pro-clean-air, pro-energy independence, pro-cost saving advancement is getting a beating in the press. In this environment, every bit of “bad EV news” spirals out into an echo-chamber of confirmation bias.

For example, Tesla’s recent software update was hyped as a 2 million vehicle “recall” even though the software was updated over the air without a single car needing to leave the driveway. Hertz's recent decision to reduce its Tesla fleet was seen by many as a referendum on the cars’ quality but was actually a decision based on Hertz’s miscalculations around repair costs and a mismatch in their projections of consumer demand for EV rentals.

While the cost of repairs might be higher, maintenance and fuel costs are still much lower than gas vehicles. EVs are better daily-use cars than rentals because while our country’s public charging infrastructure is still lagging, home charging is a huge benefit of EV ownership. Instead, the Hertz move and the negative coverage are further spooking the public.

The Truth About EVs

Despite the challenges, it's crucial to acknowledge the environmental advantages of EVs. For instance, EVs produce zero direct emissions, which significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EVs are far more energy efficient than gas-powered cars, converting more than 77 percent of electrical energy from the grid to power, compared to 12-30 percent for gasoline vehicles.

This efficiency translates to a cleaner, more sustainable mode of transportation. And stories of EVs stranded in Chicago aside, generally they perform well in cold weather, as clearly demonstrated in Norway. In Norway, the average temperature hovers a solid 10 degrees lower than in the U.S. Yet 93 percent of new cars sold there are electric. The first-ever drive from the north to the south pole was also completed by an electric vehicle. The success story of EVs in Norway and demonstration projects in harsh winter climates serve as a powerful counterargument to the notion that EVs are ineffective in cold weather.

So where does this leave us? The discourse around EVs and gasoline vehicles in cold weather needs a more balanced and factual approach. The range loss in gasoline vehicles is a significant issue that mirrors the challenges faced by EVs. By acknowledging this and understanding the broader context, we can have a more informed and equitable discussion about the future of automotive technology and its impact on our environment.

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Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.