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Circular Economies: A Pathway to the Green New World

by Sarah Howell, Vice President, Gastech

Amidst a global energy transition, the financial and social outlook of oil and gas companies is undergoing an extraordinary transformation. One of the key methods facilitating this change is the implementation of circular economies.

The energy industry, much like all major industries, has long been built on the use and consumption of finite resources. A circular economy is a system that replaces these resources with renewable and reusable materials that reduce the impact of that system on the environment. For the energy sector this means taking waste by-products and debris, and repurposing these materials into products like water, gas, and hydrogen across the upstream, downstream, and production chains.

Recycling Technologies’ Swindon project, one of the first recycling plants to be set up in Europe, has been a pioneer in the circular economy in oil and gas. With cutting-edge technology that turns un-recycled polystyrene waste back into styrene, the company has set out to make new materials for fuel which massively cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

In the face of global plastic and waste production, an average of 350 million tonnes of plastic produced yearly, cutting back on wastage could be a game changer across the entire value chain, especially the gas sector.

The Swindon plant is just one of many facilities seeking to reduce plastic wastage. For example, Saudi Arabia has been working to build one of the world’s largest green hydrogen projects to date. Using solar and wind resources, as well as shipments of blue ammonia acquired from oil and gas products, the country is deploying circular innovation as they diversify the energy ecosystem.

Amidst the global race to net zero, circular economies can play a huge role in speeding up and scaling out these transitional efforts. Not only will recycled tech equipment conserve critical materials needed to power renewable demand, such as lithium, cobalt, and other rare earths, but also secondary materials which generate less emissions.

But how commercially viable is this for the oil and gas sector?

Challenges brought on by climate change and carbon pricing will ultimately determine how feasible the reconfiguration of the energy economy can be. Above all, leaders from the industry will want to see greater transparency on policy and regulations, particularly for those harder to dispose of residual materials. And this is not just for the gas market – components from the solar or wind sector remain impossible to recycle by policy standards, stranded on the outskirts of the circular economy.

At the end of the day, energy firms and businesses will play a central role in linking the circular movement within the just transition. And to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials, this will take collaborative action from companies and regulators alike. Ultimately, as businesses demonstrate a growing enthusiasm for recyclable technologies and innovation, we are likely to see more initiatives emerge in the circular design.

This year’s Gastech will drive the conversation forward on circular economies and their part in the gas industry’s transformation. With strategic sessions dedicated to Energy Sector Leadership on the Circular Economy, Gastech will see some of the leading disruptors in the field reshape the role of recyclables in energy supply and demand.


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