Estonia’s energy giant plans to process plastic waste into liquid fuels

Eesti Energia, Estonia’s largest energy company, will collaborate with the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) to process plastic waste into liquid fuels in the company’s oil plants together with oil shale.

Eesti Energia and TalTech are aiming to find a solution for using plastic waste in industrial volumes in oil production and for converting unusable residues into valuable liquid fuel, the energy company announced.

The company said it was already possible to process used tyres together with oil shale and the prospect of doing the same with non-recycled plastics will “further enhance the importance of the technology”. “We would reduce the amount of plastic waste not only in Estonia but also in the neighbouring countries, through the use of non-recyclable plastics in the production of oil,” Margus Vals, a board member of Eesti Energia, said in a statement.

Processing a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of waste

According to the company, the use of plastics in the oil production of its oil plants – with oil shale and shredded tyres – would allow annually to process a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of waste. “The processing of non-recycled plastic waste into oil is more efficient than the use of oil shale, as preliminary studies indicate that it is possible to get up to five times more oil from one tonne of plastic than from the same quantity of oil shale,” the company said.

“There would therefore be significantly less solid residues and the quantity of other emissions would also be reduced. The quality indicators and process efficiency of liquid fuels would additionally improve, making the products more marketable. This will improve the lifespan of the plants, as well as assist in the preservation of employment in Ida-Viru County,” the company added.

One of the Eesti Energia power plants in Estonia (Eesti Energia). The company is under an ever-increasing pressure by the environmentalists to become “a greener” company.

The necessary laboratory tests will be conducted in cooperation with TalTech by the beginning of 2021, which will be followed by testing on pilot equipment and in the oil plant, the acquisition of the necessary environmental permits and the preparation of production. The start of production is planned for 2023. 

The state-owned Eesti Energia, founded in 1939, is Estonia’s largest energy producer and the second largest company in the country. Its main source of energy production until now – oil shale – is extracted from mines located in eastern Estonia. The oil shale industry is not an environmentally friendly mode of producing energy, but supports approximately 6,000 jobs in one of the most deprived areas of Estonia, the predominantly Russian-speaking Ida-Viru County.

Cover: Plastic waste. Photo by Tanvi Sharma/Unsplash.

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