The hub will combine advanced sorting and recycling operations to address the plastic waste challenge. Photo courtesy of LYB

Houston-based chemical company LyondellBasell has signed a land lease agreement for a new integrated plastic waste recycling hub by an existing industrial park in Knapsack, Germany.

The agreement is with YNCORIS, a German industrial service provider. The hub will combine advanced sorting and recycling operations to address the plastic waste challenge and the company hopes it will grow the circular economy.

The first phase of the project will see the construction of an advanced sorting facility, which will process mixed plastic waste that can produce feedstock for mechanical and advanced recycling, since this mixed plastic waste is not recycled and usually sent to incineration for energy recovery. The hub's initial advanced sorting facility expects to start operations in the first quarter of 2026. The large facility will cover an area equivalent to 20 soccer fields.

"The industrial park in Knapsack is the ideal location for our integrated hub as is it close to our world-scale facilities in Wesseling and will allow us to develop additional technologies for the recycling of plastic waste," Yvonne van der Laan, LyondellBasell's executive vice president of circular and low carbon solutions, says in a news release. "The integration of various technologies will allow us to build scale and offer our customers a wide range of products from recycled and renewable resources."

In April, LyondellBasell also secured 208 megawatts of renewable energy capacity from a solar park in Germany. Under the 12-year deal, LyondellBasell aim s to purchase about 210 gigawatt-hours of solar power each year from Germany-based Encavis Asset Management.

By 2030, LyondellBasell hopes to produce and market at least 2 million metric tons of recycled and renewable‑based polymers annually.

Rachel Meidl has more than 27 years of experience in industry, government, policy, finance, international relations, and academia. Photo via rice.edu

National plastics-focused initiative names Houston expert to committee

new role

A Houston energy and sustainability expert has been named to a national committee that provides a forum for issues around national efforts to reduce plastic pollution.

Rachel Meidl, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, was appointed to the Roundtable on Plastics Committee established by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

"As a member of the The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Roundtable on Plastics Committee, our science- and evidence-based work will cover all aspects of the plastics lifecycle and examine interventions in plastic production, waste management, environmental and health impacts, and data collection, management, and modeling," Meidl writes on LinkedIn. "The goal is to pave the way for a sustainable circular economy for plastics. I look forward to working on this important endeavor."

Meidl has more than 27 years of experience in industry, government, policy, finance, international relations, and academia. Her research focuses on sustainability, environmental justice, resiliency, circular economy, safety and environmental regulations of the treatment, storage, disposal and transportation of hazardous materials and wastes.

She also works with understanding environmental, economic and social impacts across energy and material supply chains. Previously, she was appointed deputy associate administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in Washington, D.C.. There, she led the agency’s domestic and international strategy, policy and programs.

The roundtable is expected to be a way for federal agencies and experts in academia, industry and nongovernmental organizations to talk about future research initiatives. Activities will include aspects of the plastics lifecycle and potential interventions in plastic production and waste management; material and product design; environmental and health impacts and data collection, management and modeling. The National Academies will address the diversity and complexity of issues in reducing plastic waste by convening various sectors and experts to match each step in the lifecycle of the plastics.

The plan is to operate the newly-acquired mechanical recycling plant in California to manufacture post-consumer recycled resins using plastic waste feedstock. Photo courtesy of LyondellBasell

LyondellBasell acquires California plastics recycling operations

seeing green

LyondellBasell has made a strategic acquisition of a plastics recycling facility.

The Houston-based company acquired the mechanical recycling assets containing rigid plastics recycling processing lines from recycling and waste management service provider PreZero. With the acquisition, LyondellBasell gains the processing facility in Jurupa Valley, California, with a production capacity of 50 million pounds per year for recycled materials.

The plan is to operate the newly-acquired mechanical recycling plant in California to manufacture post-consumer recycled resins using plastic waste feedstock, according to LyondellBasell. LyondellBasell aims to use recycled polymers under its CirculenRecover brand, which is part of the company's Circulen portfolio of products that enable the circular economy.

"This acquisition further strengthens our U.S. presence and will deliver value for our customers and plastic recycling rates in the West Coast," Yvonne van der Laan, LyondellBasell executive vice president, Circular and Low Carbon Solutions, says in a news release. "We will build upon our existing experience in plastic recycling in Europe and deliver a state-of-the-art, mechanical recycling facility to meet growing demand for recycled products in the U.S."

In 2025, LyondellBasell expects to finish the operations at its new facility.

With the previously announced equity stake in the Cyclyx joint venture and investment in the Cyclyx Circularity Center in Houston, the latest transaction hopes to enhance the competitiveness in the U.S. recycled products market.

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

Global chemicals co. with Houston HQ to build industrial-scale recycling plant in Germany

seeing green

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.

— — —

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”