Materials | 2 MINUTE READ

Borealis Collaborates on Revolutionary Heat Recovery Technology

Partnering with Belgium's Qpinch, Borealis will be the first polyolefins producer to scale up the latter's technology for reducing carbon emissions while improving energy efficiency.


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Austria’s Borealis (U.S. office in Port Murray, N.J.), is expected to be the first polyolefins producer to scale up a revolutionary heat recovery technology via a collaborative effort with the developer of the technology, Belgium start-up company Qpinch. The partners have agreed to scale-up the technology, which was patented in cooperation with Ghent University (Prof. Christian Stevens), to a full commercial level at Borealis’ LDPE plant in Antwerp—Europe’s largest petrochemical cluster.

The Qpinch technology mimics natural processes that store and release energy in living cells – a cycle known as ATP/ADP (where ATP refers to adenosine triphosphate and ADP to adenosine diphosphate). The technology provides a heat lift for industrial waste heat by raising the temperature of waste heat by means of a chemical process. In contrast to conventional heat pumps, this closed-loop process minimizes operational costs as well as electricity use. The technology is scalable from one to 50 megawatts (MW) and can thus process massive levels of industrial waste heat.

Borealis open-innovation collaboration with Qpinch on a full-scale commercial unit is an important step forward in the company’s journey to reduce CO2 emissions and make its operations more energy efficient and sustainable. Around 2200 tonnes (4.4 million lb) of CO2/year will be saved, which is the equivalent of 1500 small family cars per year. With operations scheduled to begin in the second half of 2019, the heat recovery unit will be the first ever application of this new technology at commercial scale in a polyolefins plant. The Flemish Government enabled the realization of the project with ecology funding support.

Said Borealis sr. v.p. innovation & technology Maurits van Tol: “We are proud to be the first polyolefins producer to scale up this revolutionary technology, which will help the Borealis Group deliver on its commitment to enhance sustainability, specifically in our focus areas of energy & climate. We believe that this technology has significant potential for our industry and will ultimately benefit our customers by offering them the same products at a lower carbon footprint.”

The Qpinch technology is applicable in diverse industrial processes with a main focus on basic petrochemicals: olefins, aromatics and polymers and refining technology. Said Wouter Ducheyne, Qpinch co-founder and CTO, “We see this first commercial-scale unit not only as a milestone for Qpinch, but as a beacon for the entire petrochemicals industry. Our heat transforming technology could in turn transform the entire industry by reducing CO2 emissions at levels previously unseen. Thanks to our collaboration with Borealis as a leading-edge customer, we can scale up our technology. This successful open innovation model between a start-up and an established company will move us to the next organizational stage, enabling to further develop the business worldwide.”