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New Hope Energy Responds to PlasticsToday: The Biggest Problem Is Capacity

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In her blog post earlier this week, Clare Goldsberry wondered why she wasn’t getting any answers from the company regarding its advanced recycling claims. “We’re not trying to hide,” explained New Hope Energy to Goldsberry. The company is keeping a low profile right now because it can’t keep up with demand.

After reading my blog post in PlasticsToday, New Hope Energy Program Manager Lee Royal contacted me to explain the company’s situation. After a long conversation, I’m satisfied that New Hope Energy is operating 24/7 as it claims, and is selling its products to customers including Chevron Phillips, per New Hope’s latest release.

According to Royal, the fire that broke out at the Trinity Oaks Tyler plant in Tyler, TX, last May was a minor incident and the company was back up and running the next day. He admits that the company has kept a very low profile over the past few years due to the fact that the Trinity Oaks plant is at capacity.

In fact, capacity is New Hope’s biggest problem, according to Royal. The demand for solutions to the plastic waste problem is creating a shortage of technology to deal with it. A study by the American Chemistry Council a few years ago mentioning New Hope’s technology resulted in the plant being “inundated” with requests from CPGs and other companies with an interest in finding a solution to their sustainability issues, said Royal.

“We’re progressing along the path and we’re not trying to hide,” Royal explained to PlasticsToday regarding the company’s failure to return requests for comment.

“Our niche is this technology which we spent years developing, and companies are buying our product, but the quantity demand is so huge that we need to scale up. The Trinity Oaks Tyler Plant Phase I is still expanding and we are selling our capacity. Phase II will add capacity, and there are other plants in the joint venture pipeline,” Royal added. “At the end of the day, we need more capacity.”

Royal noted that part of the reason for the company’s joint venture with Lummus Technologies’ Green Circle division is the need for an engineering firm to license and build facilities to allow scale to meet demand. “Everybody wants this technology, and our objective is to increase capacity at more facilities to be able to meet demand,” Royal stated.

Let’s face it: Advanced recycling technologies are in their infancy. There are a number of challenges to implementing them in a way that can satisfy demand, which, for now, is outstripping the number of companies that can process waste plastics at a meaningful scale because of size and feedstock supply. There are also regulatory hurdles to overcome when someone wants to put in an advanced recycling plant. Everyone, it seems, wants to solve the problem, but no one is willing to help reduce the regulatory obstacles to speed up the process. While government entities are passing laws to encourage recycling, including advanced recycling, no one is trying to shorten the miles of red tape that companies must confront before an advanced recycling plant can be built.

It was good to hear from Royal at New Hope Energy and get an up-to-date review of what the company is doing. He’s promised to keep PlasticsToday in the loop regarding future plans that, he said, are “coming down the road.”

I’m happy that we made a connection and got a chance to talk about the industry and the challenges New Hope is facing. I suppose there is still “hope” for the future of this industry.

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