Prof. Ph.D. M.D. Eng., Politecnico Di Milano
Mix of Plastic Wastes (Plasmix) as a source: evolution of CAPE tools and processes for (thermo-)chemical recycling
In 2010 worldwide plastic waste production was estimated at 275 million tons and in recent years growing concerns on its environmental impact have pushed for the development of a circular and sustainable economic model for their disposal.
Appropriate collection and management of the plastic residue are of fundamental importance to develop technologies for the conversion of waste to new valuable products. The collection network of European countries is already efficiently collecting this waste, however, the end destination varies vastly by country. Italy does not have landfill restrictions implemented yet, and about 30% of the 3.4 million tons of collected plastic waste, are disposed of this way. The unsustainability of such a system has become clear in recent years, and the necessity of new pathways to convert plastic waste into valuable chemicals will become critical for the economy of plastic products as countries move towards a climate-neutral economy. On this regard, while energy recovery is still a preferable pathway to direct landfill, the low added value of the product and concerning carbon emissions, relegate it to a path desirable only for plastic waste which can’t be converted to chemicals.
This project aims to evaluate the feasibility of a new process to convert the most common plastics, PE, PP, PET and PS, into syngas to use for chemicals production. Under these conditions plastic waste could be identified as a green resource for the production of synthetic fuels and other bulk chemicals instead of and expensive waste to deal with. To achieve this, an innovative reactor design has been developed for the gasification of a typical municipal plastic waste mixture.
To predict the performances of the reactor a modelling package already widely applied to biomasses and coal, was extended to be able to deal with complex plastic mixtures. The model couples both solid and gas phase reactions in a multi-level, multi-scale approach that accounts for transport phenomena from the particle scale up to the reactor one. The model developed by Ranzi et al. was adapted by introducing simplified devolatilization kinetics for the most common polymers on the market and coupling it with and extended gas phase model accounting for secondary reactions and further degradation of the polymers.
A preliminary study used a PFR co-current configuration of the reactor was compared to experimental data obtained from a fluidized bed reactor designed for biomass treatment. Results show great potential as the accuracy of the prediction is not yet satisfactory for design purposes, but both the difference from the designs of the reactors and the overly simplified devolatilization scheme leave ample room for improved future predictions.
Flavio Manenti is Full Professor of Chemical Plants at Politecnico di Milano, CMIC Dept. “Giulio Natta”, where he coordinates the Centre for Sustainable Process Engineering Research (SuPER, https://super.chem.polimi.it) with 9 permanent staff, 15+ collaborators and industrial advisors and 20+ students. He is also Professor of Chemical Plants at the Jiao Tong Xi’an University (China) and Professor of Nuclear and Chemical Plants at the Tomsk Polytechnic University
He has served for two terms the European Federation of Chemical Engineering (EFCE, www.efce.info) as elected academic Charity Trustee (2016-2019). Currently, he is President-elect of the Computer Aided Process Engineering (CAPE, www.wp-cape.eu), EFCE’s Working Party. Executive Board member of the Italian Association of Chemical Engineering (AIDIC) since 2014; Scientific expert for the CNPq (Brazil) since 2012 and for DAAD (Germany) since 2014.
He is the coordinator of Double PhD and MSc bilateral agreement with USA, UK, EU, CH, China and Russian Federation. He published 300+ papers indexed by Scopus along with a series of 5 books titled “… for the Chemical Engineer” edited by Wiley-VCH (Weinheim, Germany) on digitalization in chemical engineering. He co-authored a chapter of Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia by John Wiley and Sons on big data analytics in chemical processes.
Research consultant for the main gas, oil and petro/chemical companies, he has active cooperation with Saipem, Eni, Sibur, South Korea Innovation, Siad, SOL, HBI Group, Acea, Itelyum, ITT, Maire Tecnimont, Gazpromneft, FAT, Sitip, Techint Group with about 6.3 M€ investment for research in the last 3 years. He filed 21 patents and 6 trademarks in the field of H2 production and CO2 utilization. 6 technologies have been scaled up to TRL 9 in 2019-2021, with 9-16kt/y operating plants. Other 6 patents are at the industrial implementation phase.
For his research activities, he received the Excellence in simulation Award (Los Angeles, USA, 2007), the Zdenec Burianec Award (Prague, CZ, 2008), the Humboldt Research Award (Berlin, DE, 2014), ESCAPE best lecturer (Budapest, HUN, 2014), ESCAPE best poster presentation (Portorose, SLO, 2016), Mashelkar Golden Medal (New Delhi, IN, 2019).
In free time, he is active UEFA-licensed soccer coach with two national championships and 6 regional championships awarded and Federal soccer coach for the U13 National Team (SGS FIGC Italia).