In a factory in Mumbai, India, a prototype reactor is using a new process to turn waste plastic into fuel, which could potentially solve two problems at once.
Plastic waste is a menace to the environment, but it could be used in the near future as the feedstock for fuel production, along with just about any other kind of waste, including motor oil, tires, and municipal solid waste.
Nitin Bondal and Raghuvendra Rao, at Sustainable Technologies & Environmental Projects (STEP), have developed a reactor and process that heats waste materials in the presence of a catalyst, which breaks down the molecules and forms petroleum gas and hydrocarbon gas.
Although the device is still a prototype, the company says that once scaled up and fully operational, it would be capable of turning 150 tonnes of waste into 150,000 liters of crude oil every day.
According to the Guardian,
“It works on what we call the polycrack system. We are cooking the material and converting it into gas. When you heat any matter there is hydrogen and carbon available.” – Nitin Bondal
The Polycrack process can use plastics of all kinds, vegetable oils, animal fats, used motor oil and other petroleum byproducts, used tires, as well as a wide assortment of other organic materials as the feedstock, with a mixed fuel output. A separate distillation unit can distill different types of fuels from the crude oil.
According to STEP, the process works in this way:
“The waste plastics are shredded and conveyed into a hopper. The plastics are then heated inside an extruder where the plastics melt into a liquid mass. The molten plastic mass is pumped into the reactors where the molten plastic is converted into a vapour phase. The vapours exit into a catalytic converter. The catalytic converter converts the heavy hydrocarbon chains into lighter hydrocarbon chains. The lighter hydrocarbon chains of vapour will then pass into a condenser where the lighter ends are condensed and collected into the storage tank as petrol or gas oil., The uncondensed LPG gas is pumped to a receiver and from the receiver, the same is pumped to the burners in the TF boilers to act as fuel.”
If this process gets further developed, it could be a huge boon for countries with large amounts of waste and high energy demands.
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