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.

LyondellBasell bought into a joint venture, Cyclyx International, that was formed in 2020 by Spring-based energy giant ExxonMobil and Tigard, Oregon-based plastic recycling innovator Agilyx. Photo courtesy ExxonMobil

Houston energy company buys in on plastic recycling

Cyclyx secured

Dutch chemical company LyondellBasell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, has 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.

“Investing in plastic waste value chain experts such as Cyclyx, together with Agilyx and ExxonMobil, helps create the robust supply chains we all need to increase access to circular and renewable feedstocks,” Yvonne van der Laan, executive vice president of LyondellBasell, says in a news release.

In conjunction with the LyondellBasell announcement, Cyclyx says it’s expanding the licensing-only model for its recycling centers to add a “build, own, and operate” option. Cyclyx says this shift will enable it to control custom-blended feedstocks from sourcing through delivery.

Last year, Cyclyx revealed it had completed a pilot project for grocery store chain Food Lion.

At the outset of the project, plastic waste at certain Food Lion stores was collected for recycling. Cyclyx then sorted and pre-processed the waste before sending it to ExxonMobil’s recycling facility in Baytown. In Baytown, ExxonMobil used its Exxtend technology for advanced recycling to create new “virgin quality” plastics and other products.

ExxonMobil says the Baytown facility, which began operating in 2021, can process more than 80 million pounds of plastic waste per year. The company says the Exxtend technology it uses there breaks down hard-to-recycle plastic waste — such as synthetic athletic fields, bubble wrap, and motor oil bottles — that previously would have headed to landfills.

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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.”

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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.”