Turning plastic into oil
A breakthrough in plastic treatment has been developed that can convert plastic waste into oil. This is a promising development, in a time when reports come in daily about plastic pollution around the world.
Though secret, the process can be described simply as shredding of plastic waste, then purification and subsequently melting and cracking the shreds. After cooling, the result is diesel oil, which of course has wide-ranging applications.
The development is a strategic co-operation between Swiss company Diesoil Engineering AG and Dutch technical service provider Petrogas. The trick to the process is effective control of temperature and molecular structure of the plastics but not all sorts of plastic can be converted. The process only works with polyolephines (which are plastics originally derived from fossil fuels, such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene).
For this reason, it is of prime importance to first reuse plastic. The next best option is to recycle the waste material. If this isn’t possible, because for instance the plastic is extremely fouled, the conversion to diesel could be an option. The technology should therefore be seen as a last stage for plastics.
Diesel is also a relatively good way of extracting potential energy, with a return of 55% – 60%. “From one kilo of plastic waste we obtain one litre of diesel oil with only 3% waste, which is sold to the cement industry as fuel for their furnaces,” says Edwin Hoogwerf, Petrogas sales director.
Future possibilities include converting the plastic into kerosene, which can be used in aviation. That process is slightly more complicated, as kerosene’s melting and vaporisation points are close together. This is a potential future development step for the process.
Images via Petrogas and Creative Commons.