Next generation of polyolefin plastics: improving sustainability with existing and novel feedstock base

Alexander Reznichenko, Ali Harlin (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
179 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: In this account, we present an overview of existing and emerging olefin production technologies, comparing them from the standpoint of carbon intensity, efficiency, feedstock type and availability. Olefins are indispensable feedstock for manufacture of polyolefin plastics and other base chemicals. Current methods of olefin production are associated with significant CO2 emissions and almost entirely rely of fossil feedstock. In order to assess potential alternatives, technical and economic maturity of six principal olefin production routes are compared in this paper. Coal (brown), oil and gas (grey), biomass (green), recycled plastic (pink) as well as carbon capture and storage (purple) and carbon capture and utilization (blue) technologies are considered. We conclude that broader adoption of biomass based “green” feedstock and introduction of recycled plastic based olefins may lead to reduced carbon footprint, however adoption of best available technologies and introduction of electrocracking to existing fossil-based “grey” olefin manufacture process can be the way to achieve highest impact most rapidly. Adoption of Power-to-X approaches to olefins starting from biogenic or atmospheric CO2 and renewable H2 can lead to ultimately carbon–neutral “blue” olefins in the long term, however substantial development and additional regulatory incentives are necessary to make the solution economically viable.

Article highlights: In this account, we introduce a color coding scheme to differentiate and compare carbon intensity and feedstock types for some of the main commercial and emerging olefin production routes. Most viable short term improvements in CO2 emissions of olefin production will be achieved by discouraging “brown” coal based production and improving efficiency of “grey” oil and gas based processes.Gradual incorporation of green and recycled feedstock to existing olefin production assets will allow to achieve substantial improvements in carbon efficiency in longer term.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108
Number of pages15
JournalSN Applied Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • olefins
  • ethylene
  • propylene
  • production
  • alternative feedstocks
  • carbon intensity


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