Brightmark Energy breaks ground on plastics-to-fuel plant
Rendering of the Ashley, Indiana facility.
Courtesy of Brightmark Energy

Brightmark Energy breaks ground on plastics-to-fuel plant

Brightmark says 136 full-time manufacturing jobs will be created when the 112,000-square-foot facility is operational.

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Brightmark Energy, a San Francisco-based waste and energy development company, broke ground on the nation’s first commercial-scale plastics-to-fuel plant May 22 in Ashley, Indiana.

Brightmark says a total of 136 full-time manufacturing jobs will be created in Northeast Indiana when all phases of the 112,000-square-foot facility are operational.

The new plant will utilize a plastics-to-fuel process that recycles waste that has reached the end of its useful life – including items that cannot readily be recycled, like plastic film, flexible packing, styrofoam and children’s toys – directly into useful products, like fuels and wax.

Brightmark says ultimately, the outputs of this technology could also be used to produce the feedstocks necessary for manufacturing plastic again, creating a circular economy technology for plastics.

During the groundbreaking, Brightmark Energy CEO Bob Powell welcomed attendees and cited the need for paradigm-shifting recycling technologies such as those Brightmark will put to the test.

“This sustainable technology directly addresses an acute problem facing our nation: more than 91 percent of the 33 million tons of plastic produced in the U.S. each year is not recycled,” Powell said. “These products end up sitting in landfills for thousands of years or littering our communities and waterways. This technology offers a tremendous opportunity to combat a major environmental ill and create positive economic value in the process.”

Brightmark says the Ashley facility will be the first of its kind to take mixed waste single-use plastics and convert them into usable products at commercial scale. The facility will initially convert approximately 100,000 tons of plastics into over 18 million gallons a year of ultra-low sulfur diesel and naphtha blend stocks and nearly 6 million gallons a year of commercial grade wax in a process that is expected to be 93 percent efficient.

That’s more plastic than the weight of 5,400 tractor trailers or seven Brooklyn Bridges, Brightmark says.

BP, London, will purchase the fuels produced by the facility, and AM WAX, Santa Fe Springs, California, will purchase commercial-grade waxes produced in the process. State and local government officials and representatives from BP were on hand with Brightmark executives as the first shovels hit the site.  

“As a global energy business, BP is focused on the dual challenge of meeting society’s rising energy needs while reducing carbon emissions,” said Amy McKerns, the director of business development for BP Integrated Supply & Trading. “Our relationship with Brightmark Energy highlights the vital role that innovation and technology will play in driving the transition to a lower-carbon future and the many and unique opportunities that will come with it.”

Brightmark says state and local support for the project became a critical factor in the decision to build in Ashley. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered up to $900,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. These incentives are performance-based, meaning until Indiana residents are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.

“We’re proud that an innovative company like Brightmark Energy chose Northeast Indiana for its first facility using this world-changing technology,” said lndiana State Senator Susan Glick. “This region offers the career talent and the logistical advantages companies are looking for when siting state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. We welcome Brightmark Energy to Indiana.”

Last month, Brightmark closed a $260 million financing package for the construction of the plant, which includes $185 million in Indiana green bonds. As part of the financing closure, Brightmark became the controlling owner of RES Polyflow, the Ohio-based energy technology company that innovated the process for converting plastics directly into transportation fuel and other products.

“Brightmark plans to develop dozens of additional plastics-to-fuel facilities across the United States, and these new locations will all be anchored by the facility we’re breaking ground on today here in Northeast Indiana,” said Jay Schabel, the president of Brightmark Energy’s plastics division. “We’re pleased to have this opportunity to offer a solution to the complex problems our nation faces around plastic pollution.”