LyondellBasell's crackers at its Channelview, Texas complex.

Cyclyx has made a final investment decision on its planned Houston facility. | Courtesy of LyondellBasell

A chemical recycling-focused joint venture says it is one step closer to building a Houston facility that will source scrap plastic and prepare it for chemical and mechanical recycling.

Cyclyx International is a plastic sourcing operation created by chemical recycling company Agilyx with part ownership by virgin resin giants LyondellBasell and ExxonMobil. The company plans to source post-consumer, post-commercial and post-industrial plastic of all resins, including hard-to-recycle mixed plastics.

The company on Dec. 7 announced funding is finalized and it will move forward on developing its first plant in Texas. The facility will focus on “sorting and custom blending collected material to ensure feedstock specifications and classifications meet expectations” for customers, according to a press release, principally Gulf Coast chemical recycling facilities run by LyondellBasell and ExxonMobil.

The ambitious facility has been in the works for at least two years, with the schedule pushed out multiple times and the plant’s proposed capabilities growing in scope.

Cyclyx initially announced a Gulf Coast-area feedstock preparation plant in December 2021. At that time, the company estimated it would process 132 million pounds of plastic per year and start up in late 2022. By late 2022, the project was still in the planning stage, but Cyclyx and its backers LyondellBasell and ExxonMobil had expanded the facility’s scope: The projected capacity had more than doubled to more than 300 million pounds per year. Calling it a “Cyclyx Circular Center,” the companies estimated it would start up in 2024, depending on a “final investment decision” in early 2023.

The new announcement indicates the investment decision came in late 2023 instead – and the price tag grew from $100 million to $135 million. The start-up date has been pushed out to mid-2025.

In a 2023 half-year financial report published in August, Cyclyx said late-stage engineering on the Houston plant was almost complete, and that the company anticipated construction would begin immediately after the final investment decision.

Company growing in a changing industry

That half-year status report also touched on the evolving role Cyclyx leaders see the company playing in the chemical recycling industry, and hinted at changes in strategy. 

The report stated Cyclyx management has been “reviewing its strategy for Cyclyx in light of the significant opportunities that are opening up in the market. The development of the chemical recycling industry is limited by feedstock availability and this is being increasingly noted across the industry. The demand for feedstock for both advanced and mechanical recycling has grown significantly, and we are looking at ways in which we can meet this demand whilst ensuring that shareholders benefit from the capability and technology which has been developed.”

That half-year report indicates Cyclyx processed 6 million pounds of plastic during the first half of 2023, down from 10 million pounds during the same period in 2022. (Overall in 2022, the company processed 17 million pounds, up from 5 million pounds in 2021.)

The company attributed the 2023 drop to “lower customer production capacity due to facility maintenance. The facilities are now ramping back up and volumes in the second half are expected to be significantly higher than in the first half.”

The relatively low volume currently processed through Cyclyx indicates the importance of the Houston facility – and similar facilities the company envisions building throughout the country – to Cyclyx meeting its volume ambitions. Cyclyx has a goal to source and process 1.4 billion pounds of scrap plastic per year by 2026.

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