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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (and Oil & Gas too)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (and Oil & Gas too)


The circular economy is an alternative to the outdated linear economy (make, use and dispose) where resources remain in use, whilst maintaining their value, for as long as possible. This consists of more than just recycling; it involves an assessment of the entire life cycle of any process, creating and optimising value by reconsidering what might be seen as waste, or a system loss, and identifying opportunities to keep products and materials in use. Circular economy principles have been embraced by many industries, and an opportunity now exists for the oil and gas sector to take advantage of its many environmental and economic benefits.


Commercial airliners will typically be in service for around 20-25 years. During that time, each airplane will fly an average of 25 million miles – the equivalent of circumnavigating planet earth 1,000 times, with some long-haul aircraft clocking up more than 60 million miles.

The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (ARFA) estimates that over the next 20 years, 12,000 airplanes will be decommissioned. Today, 85% to 90% of the content of retiring aircraft is reused or recycled.

Between 40% and 50% of the weight of dismantled aircraft is reused to help keep other aircraft airborne. The remaining unserviceable material is re-purposed, disposed of or recycled, and returned to the supply chain as raw materials.

ARFA is working with 72 companies, such as manufacturers of aircraft and engines, component suppliers and operators, to establish best practice for aircraft reuse and recycling. Collectively, these organisations process over 150 aircraft, and reclaim 30,000 tonnes of aluminium every year. Manufacturers are also ensuring new aircraft are designed, not only for a long, safe and efficient life, but also for end-of-life opportunities.


The commissioning of a new energy centre has now been finalised, which is turning waste heat from the London Underground’s Northern Line into heating and hot water for more than 1,350 homes, a school and two leisure centres in Islington. The Bunhill 2 Energy Centre is considered to be the ‘first of its kind in the world’, and it is located on the site of the disused City Road Underground station, which closed in 1922 due to low passenger numbers.

The energy centre houses a large underground fan, which pulls warm air from the Northern line tunnels below. The warm air is then used to heat water, which is then pumped to buildings in the neighbourhood through a network of underground pipes, making it possible for waste energy to lead to a sustainable heating solution. 

The Greater London Authority (GLA) have estimated that there is enough heat wasted in London to meet 38% of the city’s heating requirements. With implementation of further, district heating networks this could rise to 63% of demand by 2050. Passengers also benefit from cooler tube trains, whilst the population as a whole benefit from lower carbon emissions and improved air quality.


Renault was the first major auto manufacturer to directly invest in circular economy processes, and this has become an economic success. Renault Environment, formed in 2008, maintains control over the flow of automotive waste materials and parts, and coordinates a large share of the group’s circular economy activities.

Renault reuses the parts coming from its ELVs (end-of-life vehicles) and this service assists customers whose vehicles would not economically repairable using only new parts. The company also reconditions and re-manufactures using these parts, undergoing strict industrial processes.

15,000 engines and 18,000 gearboxes are recovered annually throughout Europe. More than 50% of the engine components, and more than 70% of the gearbox components, are refurbished to produce parts guaranteed to perform just as well as new ones, whilst the average price is 40% lower. Any remaining materials, with no reuse opportunity, are recycled in foundries to produce new parts.

These processes now represent more than €500 million in revenue each year for Renault, demonstrating that the circular economy can have significant economic advantages for organisations, in addition to the environmental benefits.

Oil & Gas

Since its incorporation in 2018, Aberdeenshire-based start-up Legasea has grown from a concept into a fast-growing business, that is leading the oil and gas sector in how it manages waste. Having recognised that a linear system is no longer a viable or sustainable option, Legasea utilises a circular economy system, which sees one company’s waste being refurbished and reused elsewhere.

Specialising in production systems and controls, and offering a range of electrical, hydraulic and mechanical engineering systems, Legasea operates across a wide range of markets, including subsea oil and gas production, drilling, topsides, and renewables. The company’s key objective is to act in a sustainable manner, and their overall strategy is to provide a ‘shore to store’ service to the oil and gas industry, taking equipment that is no longer required, and finding routes to refurbish, recertify, re-manufacture and reuse it, keeping as many components as possible in use.

Excess oil and gas equipment is typically produced to be held as a contingency backup, and it is then routinely scrapped, without being used, due to of the bespoke nature of the equipment. However, Legasea recognises the value of the component parts of these assemblies. Re-purposing them is both a cost-effective, and environmentally friendly, solution which is conducive to the circular ethos that they are promoting within the oil and gas industry.

Legasea promotes sustainability and reuse, its ethos is one of a Circular Economy, taking one company’s waste and restoring it to be of value elsewhere. Find out more at: www.legasealtd.com

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.

Published: 17-10-2020

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