Chemical Recycling

Chemical recycling comes into play when mechanical recycling reaches its limits, for example in products where multiple types of plastics are used together. While most rigid plastic waste can be processed quite effectively through mechanical recycling, flexible materials (e.g., plastic film) are still predominantly incinerated or sent to landfill. Chemical recycling is the only way of overcoming this challenge. It involves altering the chemical composition of the plastic to produce pyrolysis oil from plastic waste. This synthetic oil can then be used to make any type of plastic or product. Because the quality of these products is effectively comparable to virgin plastics, they can also be used in tightly regulated areas such as the food and medical industries. Plastic waste thereby becomes a valuable raw material.

OMV has been exploring the potential for utilizing post-consumer plastics, i.e., polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene, through chemical recycling since 2011. The Austrian Research Promotion Agency has also contributed to this effort with subsidies covering part of the project investment. The first test facility was launched in 2013. In 2018, the next-level test facility – the ReOil®® 100 pilot plant – began fully refinery-integrated operation with a processing capacity of up to 100 kg/h and a production capa­city of up to 100 l/h of pyrolysis oil.

In 2021, the final investment decision () was made to build a prototype of a ReOil®® demonstration plant at an intermediary refinery scale with a design capacity of 16 kta. This plant, called ReOil®® 2000, will be fully operational in 2023. To finance this project, OMV entered its first-ever green loan agreement. This is aligned with the green loan principles and is based on a green and project-specific external due diligence appraisal, called a second party opinion, and a project-specific green financing framework. The plant will be fully integrated within the petrochemical production units at the Schwechat refinery in Austria, enabling OMV to guarantee the best use of resources, maximum efficiency, and the highest industrial safety standards, while creating around 50 new jobs. It represents a crucial step in developing ReOil®® into a commercially viable, industrial-scale chemical recycling technology with a processing capacity of up to 200 kta by 2026/2027.

The pyrolysis oil produced in the ReOil®® plant is further processed into monomers in the refinery’s steam cracker to produce high-quality base chemicals for the plastics industry. At Borealis, these monomers are then converted into high-grade polymers. Borcycle™ C represents the portfolio of chemically recycled polyolefins that Borealis is offering to the market. These products are suitable for very demanding applications such as food contact materials. Borcycle™ C is not only the label for the portfolio of chemically recycled products offered to its customers, but also the designated name for Borealis’ own technology solutions for chemical recycling. Along with Borcycle™ M, in which “M” stands for mechanical recycling, it forms the Borcycle™ portfolio of all-round solutions for plastics circularity based on the Borcycle™ technology suite launched in 2019.

Management and Due Diligence Processes

The innovative ReOil®® process uses moderate pressure and normal refinery operating temperatures to convert used plastics into pyrolysis oil, which is then used to produce high-quality base materials for the plastics industry.

Selection of Feedstock

The ReOil®® facility can process different forms of plastic waste, ranging from household waste to waste from commercial and industrial sources. The main feedstocks are polyethylene (e.g., films), polypropylene (e.g., food packaging and car parts), and polystyrene (e.g., packaging and insulation materials). Currently, the recycled feedstock is sourced almost exclusively from Austrian waste sorting facilities.


Plastic is an excellent heat isolator with poor heat transfer properties, compared with glass or metal. These properties, which make plastic desirable in everyday life, also make it difficult to break down. OMV’s proprietary ReOil®® technology is based on pyrolysis, a well-known refinery process during which thermoplastics are first melted and then cracked at a temperature of about 400°C. This means that long-chain hydrocarbons are cracked into shorter-chain light hydrocarbons. One of the inherent challenges in pyrolysis stems from the fact that, compared with glass or metal, plastics are notoriously difficult to melt, and once melted, are highly viscous, which impairs the heat transfer necessary for pyrolysis. The ReOil®® technology is unique compared to that of competitors because of the use of an innovative heat transfer technology, which allows the viscosity of the molten plastic to be reduced and thus heat transfer to be improved. As a result, the ReOil®® process is scalable to industrial scale (up to 200 kta). Thanks to the integration into OMV’s refinery in Schwechat, Austria, ReOil®® also achieves higher yields than other non-integrated chemical recycling technologies.


The ReOil®® pilot plant and the ReOil®® 2000 demo plant are both certified according to the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (). ISCC PLUS is a sustainability certification that is well-recognized by all stakeholders in recycled and biobased materials, providing traceability along the supply chain and verifying that companies meet environmental and social standards. Compliance with the certification means that for each ton of circular feedstock fed into the ReOil®® plant and replacing fossil fuels, a certain proportion of the output can be classified as circular by using the mass balance approach.

Emissions Reduction

In 2021, OMV commissioned a life cycle assessment () to determine the 2 reduction potential of its ReOil®® chemical recycling technology versus incineration. The LCA was conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) according to standards 14040 and 14044, and independently peer-reviewed by three world-leading institutes. The LCA analyzes the different treatments of one ton of pre-sorted mixed plastic waste on waste-to-gate level, starting with the collection of waste and ending with the production of polymers and energy. The LCA compares two systems ensuring the same outputs: (i) a linear economy, where waste goes to incineration producing thermal energy and electricity, and where polymers are produced from fossil sources, vs. (ii) a circular economy, where these waste streams are chemically recycled, and the same amount of thermal energy and electricity is produced based on the expected future energy mix in Austria. The LCA shows significant benefits of the circular economy system: 34% of CO2e emissions could be saved by 2030 if waste streams that are currently going to incineration are chemically recycled using the ReOil®® technology.

2022 Actions

The following key activities were carried out across the Group in 2022:

  • OMV started discussions with ALBA Recycling, a raw materials provider and leader in recycling and zero waste solutions, to jointly build and operate an innovative sorting plant in Walldürn, Germany. The collaboration will secure the delivery of suitable feedstock for chemical recycling from ALBA Recycling to OMV to help close the loop for plastic waste. An innovative, state-of-the-art sorting plant designed by ALBA Recycling will have the capacity to process >200 kta of post-consumer mixed waste into suitable feedstock for the production of virgin polyolefins. This innovative sorting process facilitates the further extraction of polyolefins from a waste fraction that currently requires incineration. It has already been tested on an industrial scale and the output has been successfully processed as feedstock in OMV’s ReOil®® pilot plant. This strategic partnership combines the complementary strengths and capabilities of both parties, with the aim of taking another step toward a world without waste. The final investment decision (FID) is expected by mid-2023.
  • In November 2022, OMV and Wood, a global leader in consulting and engineering solutions in energy and materials markets, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enter into a mutually exclusive collaboration agreement for the commercial licensing of OMV’s proprietary ReOil®® technology, with the target of agreeing on a binding cooperation by mid-2023. Both companies intend to bring the ReOil®® technology to the market together and explore the potential to integrate some of Wood’s other complementary technologies. The companies will do so by establishing a joint “technology and engineering delivery” team, which will support clients through the entire process of adopting and successfully implementing the technology at their sites. ReOil®® licenses will be provided with full asset life cycle support.
  • In April 2021, Borealis started a feasibility study for establishing a chemical recycling unit at its location in Stenungsund, Sweden, to increase supply of chemi­cally recycled feedstock for the manufacture of more circular base chemicals and plastic products. The study was carried out together with project partner Stena Recycling, the leading recycling company in northern Europe and an expert in the development of sustainable circular solutions in all types of operations. A grant was received from the Swedish Energy Agency to co-fund the study, which evaluated the optimal technology for the chemical recycling unit and its integration in the cracker at the existing Borealis production site in Stenungsund. In 2022, Borealis selected the engineering company and technology providers for the further development of its chemical recycling project in Stenungsund, Sweden. For example, a license agreement with Axens was signed for the Rewind®® Mix process to purify and upgrade 50 kta of pyrolysis oil produced from plastic waste and to turn it into perfect feedstock for steam cracking. Additionally, the Swedish Energy Agency granted new funding in the amount of EUR 5.1 to support the final study. Subject to a positive final investment decision, the chemical recycling unit is planned to start commercial operation in 2025.
  • In the course of 2022, Borealis and ITC Packaging, a leading European manufacturer of thin wall packaging for food contact applications, have jointly developed a series of new and more sustainable rigid packaging formats that are suitable for food contact. The products use resins from both the Borcycle™ C and the Bornewables™ portfolios to upgrade a number of iconic food packaging formats found on European supermarket shelves, primarily in the ice cream and ready-to-eat segments. These more sustainable formats containing chemically recycled polypropylene and renewable-based polypropylene were launched in record time in the course of the year. More and more brand owners and converters are keen to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint by enhancing the sustainability of their packaging. At the same time, ensuring the safety of food contact packaging is crucial. Both requirements are being fulfilled by the combination of chemically recycled and renewable-based materials.


Since the first ReOil®® trials in OMV’s own laboratory, there has been a lot of ongoing development. The ReOil®® 2000 demo plant will become operational in 2023 at OMV’s refinery site in Schwechat, Austria, with a capacity of 16 kta. As a next step, the OMV ReOil®® process will be developed into a commercially viable technology on a large industrial scale by 2026/2027. At that time, up to 200 kta of plastic waste will be processed. Furthermore, it is planned to launch the first ReOil®® licenses to the market in the course of 2023/2024, marking an important next step in emphasizing circularity and chemical recycling in the industry.

final investment decision
International Sustainability & Carbon Certification
Life Cycle Assessment
carbon dioxide
International Organization for Standardization