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SK Innovation becomes S. Korea's first petrochemical company to use plastic pyrolysis oil

By Lim Chang-won Posted : September 30, 2021, 14:14 Updated : September 30, 2021, 14:14

[Courtesy of SK Innovation]

SEOUL -- SK Innovation became South Korea's first petrochemical company to use waste plastic pyrolysis oil for the production of petrochemical products. Pyrolysis is a chemical recycling process that can convert plastics into high-quality oil using extreme heat and pressure. Recycled oil is processed into medium crude and light oil to be used in the production of lubricants and fuels.

Previously, pyrolysis oil has not been used as a raw material for the production of petrochemical products due to impurities and concerns over air pollution. SK Innovation (SKI) and its subsidiary, SK Geocentric, have carried out a joint study with the Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute on post-treatment technology to remove impurities.

SK Global Chemical has been rebranded into SK Geocentric to become an "urban oil explorer" specializing in plastic recycling.

From September 30, oil processed through waste plastic pyrolysis will be injected into SKI's petrochemical plant in the southeastern industrial city of Ulsan. SKI promised to expand the use of waste plastic pyrolysis oil. "Despite the eco-friendly meaning of pyrolysis oil recycled from waste plastics, it was difficult to use it for processing due to technical problems," said Yoo Jae-young in charge of SKI's petrochemical complex in Ulsan.

SK units have emphasized processing technology to use pyrolysis oil as a raw material for plastic products instead of naphtha. In January 2021, SK Geocentric partnered with Brightmark LLC, a San Francisco-based company that provides clean energy generation solutions, to build a pyrolysis plant capable of recycling 200,000 tons of waste plastics annually in Ulsan for commercial operation in 2024.

Pyrolysis recycling is widely researched in South Korea to address concerns about waste plastics. The Ministry of Environment has formed a task force involving research institutes, private companies and academics to popularize pyrolysis recycling. Pyrolysis technology will be used to create synthetic gas (syngas) that can be used as the main material for the production of methanol and ammonia.

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