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Global eForum - Tyres & Rubber Committee: “Huge” demand growth potential for recycled carbon black

  • 10 November 2021

“With tyres being composed of an average of 30% carbon black, together with tyre manufacturers looking at using up to 100% sustainable materials, there is a huge untapped potential in recycled carbon black (RCB) from pyrolysis operations,” the latest BIR Tyres & Rubber Committee webinar was assured by its Chairman, Max Craipeau of Greencore Resources Ltd. “We are talking about several million tonnes of recycled carbon black per year, potentially.”

Full realization of this “unprecedented opportunity” will depend on pyrolysis plants “managing to get the right quality and consistency that are required by the tyre manufacturers”, he clarified. However, he was convinced that “demand for high-quality recycled carbon black will definitely keep growing in the years to come so that tyre manufacturers can match their sustainability targets”.

“Tyre makers especially like recovered carbon black because they can use it in very diverse applications and in several compounds,” remarked RCB expert Martin von Wolfersdorff, Director of Wolfersdorff Consulting in Germany. Although supply is currently “low”, he said RCB is “very well-placed” to take advantage of the fact that a growing number of tyre manufacturers “are now starting to look more at ecology than economy”.

A discussion moderated by Mr Von Wolfersdorff reflected the views of representatives from two companies actively pursuing their own carbon black recycling technologies and capacity ramp-ups, namely Germano Carreira, CEO of BB&G-Alternative Worldwide Environmental Solutions, and Andy Yuan, Senior Project Manager at Taiwan-based Enrestec Inc.

Pyrolysis is a long-established technology and many of the early entrants into this field focused on selling the fuel obtained from end-of-life tyres rather than on the carbon black because of quality obstacles. But Mr Carreira insisted: “Fuel alone will not make economic sense for any company to move forward.” Through on-going R&D, his own business has “greatly improved” the quality of its RCB product, such as by reducing its volatile content from 4% to around 1%.

Discussing the route to success for his own business, Mr Yuan underlined the importance of consistently achieving the specific requirements of each individual end user. Close communication is therefore established with all customers to ensure the development of a tailored product “that can work every single time they use it”.

On the issue of supply, Mr Carreira argued for co-operation among RCB producers so as to be ready to address the anticipated “huge” growth in demand. “We can all be successful in this business,” he insisted. Mr Yuan also stressed the importance of sharing information and of education in cementing RCB’s position as “a premium product that is sustainable”. 

In the near future, according to Mr Carreira, there is scope for RCB prices to exceed those of virgin carbon black in certain applications. With carbon neutrality goals pushing customers in the direction of more sustainable materials, “there is a great opportunity and I think we are in the right place”, he added.