Every year 100 megatonnes of bioethanol (alcohol) is produced, mainly blended into gasoline. But what if soon everyone drives electric? Start -up Syclus wants to turn the acohol into bio-ethylene, a basic raw material for plastics. That could save more than 10 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. With the investment from CropEnergies AG, Syclus is entering the next phase and planning to build its own plant. Founder and inventor Joris van Willigenburg explains the origins and ambitions of Syclus in an interview on Change.inc.
The Green Chemistry, New Economy (GCNE) platform aims to accelerate the sustainable transition in manufacturing chemistry. The goal is a green chemistry with innovative technologies, without fossil fuels and without CO2 emissions. By 2025, the platform wants to be able to replace large amounts of crude oil already with recycled and biobased raw materials and use green electricity for chemical processes on a large scale. This requires new, innovative and groundbreaking technologies. Around the annual event on Oct. 11, Change Inc. interviewed several forerunners, “game changers” who are bringing these goals closer. Arnold Stokking is chairman and initiator of this platform and is happy to carry Joris van Willigenburg and this project forward.
From alchohol to bio-ethylene
Joris van Willigenburg works as a chemical engineer at service provider Sitech services at Chemelot. He sees that elsewhere in the world alchohol is being converted into bio-ethylene, a basic raw material for plastic. However, this is not happening anywhere in Europe. Van Willigenburg: “Nobody picked up the idea, so I started doing it myself.”
Worldwide, nearly 100 megatons of bioethanol is made each year, and in Europe about 5 megatons. Of that, 85 percent goes into gasoline. Van Willigenburg: “But if the car fleet is replaced by electric cars in the future, we can use that nicely in chemistry to make bio-ethylene from it.”
The technology could save 10.8 megatonnes of CO2 in the Netherlands on an annual basis. That is half of the reduction the Dutch industry promised for 2030 in the Climate Agreement.
The result of his efforts and initiative is the startup Syclus, whose technology of using alcohol to make bio-ethylene could achieve an average CO2 reduction of 135 percent compared to fossil ethylene. It could save 10.8 megatonnes of CO2 in the Netherlands on an annual basis. That is as much as half of the reduction the Dutch industry has pledged for 2030 in the Climate Agreement.
CropEnergies acquires stake in Syclus
Syclus recently found a invester for the production of its biobased ethylene. CropEnergies, Europe’s leading producer of sustainable ethanol, is investing 1.8 million euros in the first phase of the construction of a large-scale plant at Chemelot chemical site in Geleen. This should produce over 100,000 tons of bio-ethylene per year from January 2026 and will eventually cost between 85 and 100 million euros.
With the new investment, Syclus can already start engineering and investigate the technical feasibility of the plant. Van Willigenburg: “With these investments, we have the money to take the first steps necessary.”
Chemelot Director Loek Radix welcomes the initiative. “Chemelot’s strategy is to become the first fully circular chemical park in Europe by switching to 100 percent renewable raw materials and electrification of our production processes. That Syclus plans to produce ethylene sustainably from renewable ethanol fits perfectly into our strategy,” he states.
Do you want to know more about Syclus and its plans and ambitions?
Syclus’ ambition is to become a leading producer for 100% biobased and fully circular raw materials, starting with bio-ethylene. Would you like to find out more about the ambitions, plans and projects? If so, please feel free to email.