Thursday, November 8, 2007

Plastics back to Petroleum - Plas2Fuel

Want to see something cool? Plas2Fuel out of Kelso, Washington.

They have a technology currently demonstrated that takes any type of plastics (type 1 through 7) and can turn it back into a crude petroleum state. Once liquid this recycled plastic product is ready to be refined into any number of higher value petroleum products.

I was lucky enough to take a tour of their facility and even have a sample of their product sitting on my desk. What makes their process exciting is that most plastics have a chlorine in their make up. This chlorine then becoming problematic any time you burn or attempt to melt plastic in a recycling process (chlorine corrodes most processes). Making the end product of any plastic to petroleum process acidic. They have overcome this.
As they explain their process it seemed pretty simple in concept and complex in application. I may be wrong but I believe Plas2Fuel is using a process similar to "Thermal Depolymerization."

They essentially fill a cartridge container with a mix of any type of plastic. This cartridge is then loaded into their demonstration plant which starts heating up. The process vessel is then turned into an oxygen depleted environment which causes the plastic to return to a crude petroleum state ready for refining into other products.

They get a two grade product out of the process. A thicker crude and a product that looks like petroleum distallate (but they tell me is closer to a gasoline product).

Its always exciting to see technologies like this in my own backyard. Its even better having an inventor living within a phone call to ask questions as well.

Also worth mentioning, a little known fact. The plastics we pay good money to sort out at solid waste transfer stations are typically shipped to Asia. From what I've been told by several reliable sources we pay brokers to move it over seas where our sorted plastic waste is recycled into heat (i.e burned as cheap and dirty fuel).

Question to those reading the blog. If you had a small, low sulfur, high grade feedstock as described above. What would be the highest and best use for the product? Where do you think market development should be.

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