Production of sustainable polyethylene based on carbon captured from industrial waste gas

TotalEnergies and its two partners have achieved a world first in producing the very first packaging made of sustainable PE using captured and recycled carbon emissions. TotalEnergies’ Polymers activity is fully committed to innovation in order to reduce the carbon footprint of its product, particularly Polyethylene (PE), by using feedstocks other than fossil oil. With this in mind, TotalEnergies worked with L’Oréal and Lanzatech, both player in the value chain, to develop an ambitious project to produce polyethylene-based packaging from industrial waste gas.

The achievement & its potential

TotalEnergies has been using an innovative dehydration process developed with IFP-EN and Axens to transform the ethanol (obtained with Lanzatech biological process from Captured industrial emissions) into ethylene, which is then polymerized to turn it into a PE that has all the technical specificities of its fossil-fuel based counterpart. L’Oréal then has used this polyethylene to make packaging that has identical properties to that of a conventional polyethylene.

The pilot-scale proof of concept of the very first sustainable PE packaging from captured industrial waste gas demonstrated the technological feasibility of the dehydration process needed to transform the ethanol into polymer quality ethylene.

This innovation paves the way of carbon capture and recycling to produce materials (PE) thereby avoiding industrial waste gas and the use of fossil resources. In addition, this polyethylene is perfectly recyclable at the end of its lifecycle via existing and well-established schemes, meaning it fits into a complete circular value chain.

The initial calculations show that the PE made from recycled carbon-based ethanol has a significant lower carbon footprint (cradle to gate) than the fossil fuel-based equivalent it is replacing up to 3.2 tCO₂e/t of polyethylene

The three partners continue working together to produce sustainable plastic on a larger scale that could lead to several hundred thousand tonnes of CO₂e emissions savings.

This partnership is an excellent example of collaboration between industrial firms in developing the plastics of the future produced from recycled carbon and meets a strong demand from our customers. The development of this new pathway of valuing industrial carbon emissions also contributes to the Group’s commitment to get to net zero in Europe by 2050.

Valérie Goff – Senior Vice President Polymers, Total

This partnership is based on a shared goal of creating a cleaner planet for everyone. We are grateful to both L’Oréal and Total for their commitment to reducing the carbon intensity of their activities. Together, we can reduce the carbon footprint of packaging by converting carbon emissions into useful products, making single-use carbon a thing of the past.

Jennifer Holmgren – LanzaTech CEO

L’Oréal is constantly improving the environmental footprint of its packaging. With this innovation converting carbon emissions into polyethylene, we aim to develop new sustainable packaging solution. We have the ambition to use this sustainable material in our bottle of shampoo and conditioner by 2024 and we hope other companies will join us in using this breakthrough innovation.

Jacques Playe – L’Oréal Packaging & Development Director, L’Oréal