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Waste Plastics into Oil

    Chinese oil refinery used waste plastics.
    The first report of turning plastic wastes into oil came in 2001 from the People’s Daily, China’s English language newspaper. An oil refinery in Hunan province had succeeded in processing 30 000 tonnes of plastic wastes into 20 000 tonnes of gasoline and diesel oil that satisfied the provincial standards. Wang Xu, who built the refinery in 1999, started experimenting with waste plastic processing in the 1980s, and later teamed up with Hunan University doctoral tutor Zeng Guangming who gave him scientific advice on decomposing plastic wastes. This may be one reason why China has been importing enormous amounts of plastic wastes ("Redemption from the plastic wasteland", this series).
    Although no details were given on the technology used, it is most likely based on thermal depolymerization, a process for breaking down organic wastes under heat and pressure into light crude oil, which has been studied in the West since the 1970s. It mimics the natural geological processes thought to be involved in producing fossil fuels. Under high pressure and heat, long chain polymers of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons in a matter of hours. Until quite recently, however, the artificial process was far from energy-efficient, as more energy had to be put in than was produced, and the product, a crude oil, was also full of impurities.
    In the 1980s, Illinois microbiologist Paul Baskis in the United States modified the process to produce a lighter, cleaner oil, but failed to convince investors until 1996, when a company called Changing World Technologies began development with Baskis to make the process commercially viable.
    Changing World Technologies opened a demonstration plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in 2001, the first full-scale plant was built in Carthage, Missouri, and the company applied to patent a "thermal conversion process" (TCP) for converting organic wastes, such as pig manure, into oil and other products.

Waste Plastics into Oil

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