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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.


  1. dale says:

    Interesting technology. However, is air pollution better than ground pollution? Also, what is the embedded energy in converting?

  2. Eckhardt says:

    Did some research on internet, first patend that i found claiming this proces/principle was already from 2001. And if you look a bit further you will see that there are a lot of engineers; researchers and companies claiming that they have “invented” this proces from plastic to fuel (e.g. Diesel) and own a patend or have it pending.
    Not so big news afterall!

  3. P. Das says:

    No, this not a good idea. If you can turn it into diesel it must be possible to use it as a basic material for making plastics.

  4. Braha Kunda says:

    It is important to put forth and adress the environmental prices of this new innovative technology:
    Air pollution and energy wise…
    It sounds like we are going to breath plastic bottles..

  5. Edwin says:

    The technology focussed on using plastics which would otherwise have been send to an incineration plant. In these incinaration plants some of the heat of burning is recovered but this is maximum 35%. Our technology converts the plastic waste (which would otherwise have been burned) into diesel oil. This diesel oil is of course also burned later on (e.g. in a car engine) but the efficiency of a car engine is far better than that of an incinerator.
    In the end the same amount of CO2 is emitted, but in our technology more energy is generated. This means less fuel consumption in the end and as such less polution.

  6. Edwin says:

    It is true that several companies own patents for technologies that appeas similar. However, DiesOil is the first company to have succesfully operated a plant on full scale for several years with continuous good quality output product.
    The DiesOil process differs from other patented processes.

  7. Edwin says:

    You are correct, this is also a possibility. Instead of making diesel we can make feedstock product for the plastic industry. We are already engaged in several discussions with interested parties for this application.

  8. Edwin says:

    The CO2 emissions are equal in case of incineration or diesel-use. Only the diesel-approach generates more energy (i.e. more efficiency) per kg of plastic and as such saved energy.
    You will not breathe plastic bottles as the end-products of burning plastic or burning diesel are essentially the same.