Sustainable Industry

Solutions for the oil refining industry

In addition to taking actions to reduce its emissions and reuse waste, FCC developed a breakthrough catalyst for the chemical recycling of urban solid waste

Several companies in the fine chemicals industry – responsible for sourcing highly pure substances used in the production of drugs and vaccines, agricultural pesticides, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), catalysts, among others – are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of their production processes.

A case in point is Fábrica Carioca de Catalisadores S.A. (FCC S.A.), which designs, develops and delivers catalyst and additive solutions for the oil refining industry, which brings together two major global players in the oil and petrochemicals sectors: Petrobras and the Albemarle Corporation.

“Today, sustainability and safety are core values ​​for our company. This is reflected in the establishment of a dedicated division for sustainable innovation and of internal sustainability committees,” says the CEO of FCC S.A., Arlindo Moreira Filho.

He says that the company also has additional plans to expand its activities in sustainability-related activities. “We recently carried out an assessment of the company in order to identify existing sustainability practices and expand our operations,” he says.

From its inception, FCC S.A. has focused on the most efficient technologies and has minimized the use of resources so that they can be reused in the production of catalysts, thereby reducing particulate emissions.

As such, FCC. S.A.’s initiatives are in line with the strategy of the National Confederation of Industry (CNI) towards a low-carbon economy in Brazil based on four pillars: energy transition, carbon market, circular economy, and forest conservation.

With regard to refining customers, FCC S.A. claims to be co-responsible for achieving sustainability goals. To that end, it offers a portfolio of catalysts and environmental additives for refiners to run cleaner operations.

A first-mover initiative – For many years, used tires went to co-processing or granulation processes, but a new procedure emerged in this segment – pyrolysis, which is the thermal decomposition of materials at temperatures of approximately 400-600 °C.

Thus, the FCC developed Cyclus, a brand new catalyst in the chemical recycling of urban solid waste, such as rubber and plastic. Cyclos can convert waste tire chips into liquid fuels such as gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil and fuel gas. As a result, it can be used to transform end-of-life products into chemical products with enhanced added value in the supply chain.

The rubber crushed in a pyrolysis reactor generates fuel gas (used as a source of heat for the process itself), pyrolysis oil (a liquid that can be used as fuel oil and in other applications) and carbon black (coal), which is reused in the tire industry.

According to the FCC, just over 1% of waste tires were used in this process in 2015. By 2019, on the other hand, this had gone up to more than 16%.

A growing concern – In recent years, FCC has shown growing concern with sustainability. According to FCC, developments and innovations in this regard can be divided into two categories.

The first category covers actions associated with internal processes. For instance, since 2012 FCC has been working to monitor and reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and has now achieved a 7% reduction. In addition, the company claims that more than 87% of all solid waste generated – including paper, plastic, metals etc. – are recycled.

A major challenge that was overcome in the internal processes was the sustainable use of industrial waste, which started to be used as raw material for the production of bricks and lime in civil construction, thus feeding it back into the production chain.

The second category brings together actions that target customers and the community. In FCC’s view, sustainability involves different actors and, therefore, the company is committed to positively impacting society and its customers’ processes.

In relation to the community, in 2005, FCC implemented the Environmental Education Program to disseminate knowledge and environmental preservation practices. According to FCC, so far more than 300 schools have benefited from the program.

The circular economy – In 2020, FCC established partnerships to study and develop an advanced recycling technology for plastics that would transform them into raw materials to be fed back into the production chain. This is a cooperation agreement with Braskem, the Chemical and Textile Industry Technology Center of the National Service for Industrial Learning (SENAI CETIQT), and the Polymer Engineering Laboratory (EngePol PEQ/COPPE) of the Federal University of Rio de January (UFRJ).

Several projects have been carried out as part of these efforts, such as development of the aforementioned Cyclus and the creation of FCC S.A. Innovation Center, whose objective is to develop projects related to the circular economy and bioeconomy.