The second big motivator for PTF is the price of oil. Making gasoline or diesel fuel using oil costs more than $800 per ton, according to Schabel:
With the price of oil going up and up, now the less viable technologies are becoming more viable, and energy recovery processes are now aiming at fuel as the end product. Those business models have a higher selling price, so there's more profit. If oil goes below $50 to $60 per barrel, they can't make money. The cost of oil will always set the price.
Every ton of plastic PolyFlow puts into its pyrolysis conversion machines contains 33 million BTUs of energy, Schabel added.
We add 1.7 million BTUs to run the process and the facility. The liquid we get out from that ton of material has 27 million BTUs. So we can put fuel back into the larger local economy where it's been generated. We're taking the output of Cleveland and shipping it back in, instead of shipping oil halfway around the world.>
PolyFlow's target is to set up plants outside landfills in several areas. It is building the first full-scale processor that will begin running in October 2012.
Pyrolysis-based energy recovery processes, such as JBI's Plastics2Oil, can produce fuels that do not need further refining, such as the Naphtha, Fuel No. 2 (furnace oil), and Fuel No. 6 (heavy fuel) shown here (left to right). (Source: JBI)
JBI's process converts plastic back into virgin feedstock and produces either an in-spec fuel or the original monomer. The resulting fuel conforms to ASTM D396, which governs heating oil, furnace oils, diesel, and gasoline, said CEO John Bordynuik.
We don't sell fuel to refineries, but direct to end users. Refineries don't like synthetic crude because it doesn't have the same components or properties that crude has. Our residue is petroleum coke, which can be used in steel making.
The process is also a closed-loop system that makes hydrogen and other gases. Bordynuik says:
Up to 10 percent of the waste feedstock we put in is converted into gas, and that fuels the entire process, eliminating the energy costs to run the machine. We've scaled from 1 gallon to 2 tons per hour, in an area less than 1,200 square feet, so it's a small package. We've got three machines per building, so you seed one end, and pull fuel out the other. Two people can operate the three machines on each shift for 140 tons per day.
Blest is a pioneer in PTF technologies, selling compact, highly efficient continuous pyrolysis processors since 2002, and commercial-sized units since 2007. These range from capacities of 22 pounds of plastic per hour, producing 2.7 gallons of oil per hour, to a system handling 10 times those amounts. Like other PTF systems, they are scalable by connecting multiple units and running them in parallel.
Ann, I am not aware of anyone using this method. It just popped into my head that since both heat and ultraviolet attack the bonds in polymers, that a combination should be even more effective. OThers are certainly welcome to use the concept as long as I get credit for coming up with it. It will be a nice addition to my resume, and it may be of some benefit to humanity as well.
Ann, No, the idea that I had was using solar energy, both light and heat at the same time, to break the large molecules up. Essentially a solar furnace with ultraviolet as well..
Leaving the plastic out in the sun does break it down, but it would be a very long time for anything useful to be created.
So the big deal is putting in the right amount of energy, to cause just enough decomposition. The process would indeed be a form of pyrolysis, but with the UV as well, it would be more effective, I think.
While the smallest Blest units may be "too large" for home use their capacity is about right for use by small groups of people in a neighborhood, or a strip mall of stores, as Jerry suggests and as is currently done in Japan. When the company finishes developing the solar-powered version for use on TOP's boats, that one might be small enough for home use.
William, if you mean just letting plastic sit out in the sun without further treatment, the problems with that method of decomposition are: a) it takes way too long, and b) while it's taking way too long to decompose, particles get into the ecosystem and consumed by fish and birds, and poison water and soil. This is well-known by everyone involved in various forms of WTE and PTE. Or did you mean something else?
How about using the sun's energy directly to break apart the plastic molecules so that they can be reassembled into fuel. The benefit of directly driven solar decomposition is that it would not affect the power grid at all, and it would have fewer conversion losses. Just add enough energy to push the plastics back to the original petroleum stock, or something like that. After all, ultraviolet does break plastics bonds when we don't want it to, why not utilize that process when it could be useful.
NIST's new five-year strategic plan for its Material Measurement Laboratory lists additive manufacturing materials development as one of the main areas it will support by developing measurements, data, techniques, and models.
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