OMV Global
en de
OMV Global
All Locations
View Map
OMV Websites
OMV Group Austria Bulgaria Czech Rep. Germany Hungary New Zealand Norway Romania Serbia Slovakia Tunisia UAE
OMV Gas Websites
OMV Gas Austria Belgium Germany Hungary Netherlands Turkey
OMV Petrom Websites
OMV Petrom Petrom Romania Petrom Moldova
Borealis Websites
Borealis Group
© William C. Y. Chu

Plastics: Wiring old and new energy

Reading time: 4 min

What role do plastics play in the energy transition and can they be part of a sustainable world in the future? We talked to Bart Verheule, Director Global Marketing Energy at Borealis, about how plastics enable the switch to renewable energies, what the “German Corridors” are, and how many cables we will need in the future.

As the plastics industry transforms to more sustainable production sources, they also play a vital role in enabling the transition to renewable energy for electricity production. Plastic is not only used as an insulation material but also as protective jacketing for these cables which transport electricity. The demand for energy is growing. This means that the distances it needs to travel, from where the renewable energy is generated to where it is consumed are becoming longer. The longer distances mean that the integrity and performance of cables is even more important.

One such example is, in the so-called "German Corridors," a critical part of Germany’s Energiewende where a series of underground electrical corridors that shall transport electricity from offshore wind farms over hundreds of kilometers. Once completed, these lines will have a capacity of about 8 gigawatts. That's roughly equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of all of Austria.

How many cables will we need in the future?

"In a single house alone, you have an average of 2 to 3 km of cables," Bart says. "Extrapolating the numbers to a worldwide demand is very difficult. What is certain, however, change and investment must happen in our exisiting global power grid as we transition more and more to renewable energy sources. In the next few years, we will have to build four times as many wind farms as in existence today. More wind turbines also mean more cables which need to meet the highest standards, seeing as they need to cover the longer distances and underwater.”

img_Zitat_Blog 20240205_EN


Transporting electricity: Challenge accepted!

The weak points in cable systems are the connections, or so called joints, so the goal is to produce cables that are as long as possible, ensuring as fewer joints as possible . “Borlink™” (a proprietary Borealis cross-linking technology) is a proven technology that can be utilized to produce extra-long cables, such as those used in German Corrdors. It is particularly suitable for high voltage direct current,  which transmits electricity over very long distances without losing too much electricity. "We  have an example of a cable producer in Asia that has been able to produce a 500-kilovolt cable, 20 kilograms per meter cable, for more than 20 days in continuous production. The result was a 60 km long cable that could connect from shore to a wind farm without any joints. The cables produced in this way can reach higher voltage and transmission levels, which means they are more efficient. For example, instead of two cables, only one can be used.”

Cables in a Circular Economy?

img_NKT Cables_LV_027_2011_Original_(c)Borealis

"We guarantee a lifespan of 20 years for cables, and they usually last 40 years,” the expert indicates. “So cables are something very different from disposable plastics that are only used once. We're talking about durable plastics, which have to meet the highest standards of longevity and reliability." 

When it comes to mechanically recycling the plastic parts of a cable, we need to distinguish between the insulation and the protective jacketing. “If we were to incorporate mechanically recycled material into the insulation material, it would lead performance impairments. This is why we still need to rely on virgin plastics to provide the purity and quality levels needed for performance.”

For the outer protective jacket, however, recycled materials can be used. "We're developing a jacketing material right now that incorporates mechanically recycled plastics and can also be recycled at the end of its life. We also have a couple of pilot projects going on right now using our "Bornewables™ material" for cable production," Bart tells us. "The Bornewables are plastics made from second-generation bio-based feedstock, such as waste oil, residues from vegetable oil production and oil waste. Basically, it's the same process as when we make plastics from mineral oil." 

Sustainability can take many forms

"In addition to the recycling issue, decarbonization of the production process is a major concern for us when it comes to sustainability," he says. "We are constantly working on this, and it is firmly anchored in our strategy." Plastics are also used in photovoltaic systems, so it's hard to imagine renewable energy sources without them. "Plastics are a key link between old energy and new energy," the specialist is convinced.

Related content

About the Blog Netiquette Contact Subscribe to our Blog