Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

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Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Dogan » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:06 am

So, a video made the rounds several months ago of a Japanese machine made by Blest called a "Be-h desk-top waste plastic to oil system" converting waste plastic to diesel. At first, the name of the company, the vagueness of the video lead me to believe it was fake, but after some research and thinking (most plastics today are petroleum based [corn and casein based variants exist], therefore a way to convert the processed petroleum plastic into a petroleum based fuel like diesel seems logical) it appears to be real, if hard to find for sale. Several similar systems have appeared, both home manufactured and devised by such groups as the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, all appearing to operate through pyrolysis. By products of this process include fuel gases such as methane, butane and propane. Apparently industrial size applications of this technology are fairly common, and scattered across the US and world.

Now back on course.

My second thought after a string of expletives describing the awesomeness of this concept was "My god. In any PAW scenario, having a machine that could convert the plastics which will exist for thousands of years into fuel would be... invaluable." It appears the process has a 1kg=~1l yield.

Thoughts?

Links:
http://www.energeticforum.com/renewable ... eaply.html ($800 home built system)
http://www.blest.co.jp/FAQ_eng.html
http://www.inspirationgreen.com/plastic ... -fuel.html (Filipino industrial application)
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by JayceSlayn » Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:59 pm

Liquid hydrocarbons like gasoline and diesel are the current kings of fuels because of at least two properties: being energy dense, and being a liquid at ambient temperature and pressure. That means they are efficient fuels, and easily distributed using pumps, pouring, etc. Thus the allure of converting long-chain hydrocarbon forms (like waxes and plastics) back into these low-molecular weight forms.

Essentially the are working on cracking the long-chain hydrocarbon plastics into smaller bits - into the range that are liquids at room temperature. An overview of the chemistry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracking_(chemistry).

Obviously, modern gasoline and diesel are highly refined products, and modern engines are similarly engineered within an inch of their life to utilize these fuels, so I doubt modern vehicles would tolerate any kind of home-brew fuel for very long. Simpler/smaller and older IC engines might work for an extended time though.

My first thought, as an engineer, was that the yields could probably be improved, but that would start to require a lot more sophistication of equipment, which kind of defeats the simplicity of this approach. My second thought was that if your containment system for the heated plastic feedstock and/or whatever lighter byproducts you're producing fails, then this thing could quickly be catastrophic too, so I'd be very careful with any attempts to replicate.

Third thought: a more direct and simpler use of plastic feedstocks in the PAW might be reverting to just using them to power a steam engine, and burning them directly in a boiler. Of course, by the sheer existence of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Codes, operating a steam engine isn't an inherently safer alternative.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Dogan » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:10 am

JayceSlayn wrote:Liquid hydrocarbons like gasoline and diesel are the current kings of fuels because of at least two properties: being energy dense, and being a liquid at ambient temperature and pressure. That means they are efficient fuels, and easily distributed using pumps, pouring, etc. Thus the allure of converting long-chain hydrocarbon forms (like waxes and plastics) back into these low-molecular weight forms.

Essentially the are working on cracking the long-chain hydrocarbon plastics into smaller bits - into the range that are liquids at room temperature. An overview of the chemistry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracking_(chemistry).
Thanks for the insight!
JayceSlayn wrote:Obviously, modern gasoline and diesel are highly refined products, and modern engines are similarly engineered within an inch of their life to utilize these fuels, so I doubt modern vehicles would tolerate any kind of home-brew fuel for very long. Simpler/smaller and older IC engines might work for an extended time though.
While I realize this I also had the thought of A) older non-computerized vehicles being more tolerant of the small changes in octane from batch to batch, especially diesels with a little modification similar to what people do for conversion to homebrew bio-diesel for greater fault tolerance in fuel (additional filters specifically). Power may be lost and performance may vary, but it should still run (I'm looking at you, Indian Toyotas and your horror stories of incredibly crappy fuel). But also B) vehicles with computerized fuel injection systems should have the capacity to either auto-adjust fuel-air ratios or be "chipped" to run the homebrew diesel which I'm sure will have different combustion characteristics than commercially refined diesel. (Gasoline can be refined from this process but my understanding is that this is a much more intensive process than simply producing diesel.) Hell, even if an 80's Komatsu diesel tractor could run this for five years it would be a great asset in the PAW.
JayceSlayn wrote:My first thought, as an engineer, was that the yields could probably be improved, but that would start to require a lot more sophistication of equipment, which kind of defeats the simplicity of this approach. My second thought was that if your containment system for the heated plastic feedstock and/or whatever lighter byproducts you're producing fails, then this thing could quickly be catastrophic too, so I'd be very careful with any attempts to replicate.

Third thought: a more direct and simpler use of plastic feedstocks in the PAW might be reverting to just using them to power a steam engine, and burning them directly in a boiler. Of course, by the sheer existence of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Codes, operating a steam engine isn't an inherently safer alternative.
Far more advanced systems have been created and are used, such as the Blest and the industrial applications of pyrolysis plastic conversion worldwide, the Mexican system at Energetic simply grabbed my attention due to it's price point and simplicity; I'm sure if you doubled the production cost of the system you could greatly improve it. I have no plans to replicate this in the near future as an aside, but I'm thinking for containment purposes, having the entire system in a dedicated building (much like the sheds used for stills in the prohibition era) like a concrete-block shed with a 6" tub built into the foundation would provide containment of a straight up fire, when combined with defensible space around the building. I'm sure the coding regulations for doing this legally today would be horrendous and I'm not even going to start researching that at this point in time.

True, but that would be (to my understanding) far more polluting, not produce an an easily tradable product, nor be as suitable for use in vehicles without purpose building one. (I know steam cars exist and have for a century or more, but honestly I'd more than happily take a diesel tractor over a steam car anyday.)
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by procyon » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:12 am

I wouldn't start burning untreated plastics as a fuel.
Several types of plastic, particularly PVC, will produce hydrogen cyanide when burned in proper conditions.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by JayceSlayn » Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:48 am

procyon wrote:I wouldn't start burning untreated plastics as a fuel.
Several types of plastic, particularly PVC, will produce hydrogen cyanide when burned in proper conditions.
If it happens, you will likely be dead before you realize something is wrong.
That is a very good point to remember. The OP system recommends only using polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) plastics.

Since all three of these are not chlorinated or fluorinated they should not produce any HCl or HF, both of which are harmful by themselves, but also contribute to the formation of dioxins (which are halogenated aromatics). PVC is polyvinyl chloride, which means it will produce HCl and dioxins when burned.

In so much as I can remember (which isn't saying much) PP and PE should be OK-er to burn at lower temperatures. However, burning PS at a lower temperature/without enough oxygen I do know has a tendency to create styrene monomer and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which are known to be very bad for your health. Burning much of any kind of hydrocarbon incompletely has some tendency to create PAHs, but can be fixed by ensuring an oxygen-rich environment and high temperatures. ICEs do this fairly well, and burning in a heap inside a boiler would not do it very well.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by procyon » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:53 am

PP and PE are not going to produce lethal fumes in most situations where they are burned.
Pure PS is also safe, but most PS products also contain copolymers that will produce HCN - so I would avoid burning any sizable quantities of it.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:17 am

Cracking any hydrocarbon is a pretty energy-intensive process. So yes, you can absolutely 100% convert plastics to diesel, or gasoline, or whatever you need to, but it requires a lot of input energy. Which right now, would likely come from other hydrocarbons.

This is probably something we'll be looking at doing in a century or so using solar or fusion or whatever the heck we're using for power by then, and then landfills will become petroleum sources.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Murph » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:33 am

The idea of a plastic pellet (or ground down plastic) engine is a fascinating idea. Reminds me of a wood gasifier.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Murph » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:26 am

No technical details, but a neat promo video of a Plastics to Oil machine:

Does your BOB at least have: water, basic tools, fire, food, first-aid kit, and shelter?
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:02 pm

Yeah, that guy's got a neat machine. It's small scale cracking and refining in a reasonable-looking apparatus. It requires a lot more energy input than you're going to get by burning the finished product, though.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Murph » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:36 pm

crypto wrote:Yeah, that guy's got a neat machine. It's small scale cracking and refining in a reasonable-looking apparatus. It requires a lot more energy input than you're going to get by burning the finished product, though.
Yup. It sounds like there is no getting around the high energy input for this process. It only sounds reasonable if you have an abundant renewable non-transportable energy source (like hydro-electric) and plenty of plastic, and want to "convert" it to a easily transportable energy source. Just another case of "is the juice worth the squeeze?"
Does your BOB at least have: water, basic tools, fire, food, first-aid kit, and shelter?
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Stercutus » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:15 pm

I guess you can lay it out in the sun for a couple of years. Plastic will certainly crack well after that. Even the UV resistant stuff.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Dogan » Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:43 pm

I see a lot of concern about energy in > energy out, and one of the things I noted in the Energetic forum post was mention of using the product to fuel the machine, and perhaps the OP's calculations were off but he made it sound like at that point energy in would be less than the energy out.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:10 am

Dogan wrote:I see a lot of concern about energy in > energy out, and one of the things I noted in the Energetic forum post was mention of using the product to fuel the machine, and perhaps the OP's calculations were off but he made it sound like at that point energy in would be less than the energy out.
I don't see that happening any time soon, really. It would require a fuel cell or a combustion engine that could divert either part of the product or the waste fraction of the process and react it to generate the power to run the apparatus. My gut feeling is that this is still a very net-negative process right now, and I'm not sure it will ever become net-positive. If it does, he'll win a Nobel Prize, though.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Confucius » Wed Jul 08, 2015 10:23 am

crypto wrote:
Dogan wrote:I see a lot of concern about energy in > energy out, and one of the things I noted in the Energetic forum post was mention of using the product to fuel the machine, and perhaps the OP's calculations were off but he made it sound like at that point energy in would be less than the energy out.
I don't see that happening any time soon, really. It would require a fuel cell or a combustion engine that could divert either part of the product or the waste fraction of the process and react it to generate the power to run the apparatus. My gut feeling is that this is still a very net-negative process right now, and I'm not sure it will ever become net-positive. If it does, he'll win a Nobel Prize, though.
Why's that you figure? No need to use electricity. You'll Crack a fair amount of methane and ethylene depending on the temperature. No reason you couldn't burn them for at least a portion of the heat.

There's nothing fancy going on here. Just thermal cracking of plastic.

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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Wed Jul 08, 2015 11:34 am

No, its not magic of course, but in the $800 example, he's using 6KW of electricity to run a three-phase furnace for the heat source

Converting it it liquid fuel on an industrial scale is feasible, but it still requires electricity that comes from somewhere to run the control system for the process.

The original thread on energeticforum is well over 100 pages and I'm only about 10 in so far, does anyone know if anyone's run a tank full of the homebrew product through a vehicle yet?

I've seen the video from the Japanese company and it looks like it has enough process control to deliver a usable product, but it sure looks like the homebrew ones are lacking anything that could deliver an end product I'd be willing to burn in anything more complex than a stove.
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Confucius » Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:06 pm

Sorry, I'm an engineer in a refinery, I go straight to industrial scale. But controlling process temperature on a fired heater is not too tricky.

Would probably want to figure a way to make it a continuous process rather than batch on an industrial scale, and would probably want to run the product through a hydrotreater to saturate the olefins I'm sure are formed in the process.

High levels of olefins in fuel is bad news, will polymerize and gum up a fuel system real bad...

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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Wed Jul 08, 2015 7:17 pm

Wouldnt that significantly up the complexity of the unit both in terms of cost, and care and feeding? At a minimum, you'd have to manage the catalyst, plus find enough elemental hydrogen to use. Maybe you could get the latter through electrolysis, but that would push the net energy requirement way up again. And then what to do about the resulting hydrogen sulfide?
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Confucius » Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:05 pm

Oh absolutely.

I skipped right past apocalypse and straight into "If I wanted to make diesel from plastic, what would I do?"

Electrolysis is wildly impractical for more than tiny amounts of hydrogen, so would probably want to go with a steam methane reformer for the hydrogen. If you're running shredded plastic like in the link, there'd be very little sulfur, so you could run the hydrotreater at a very low severity just to saturate olefins. Since you're just saturating the olefins you'd have a long catalyst life, and very little H2S (little enough you could easily burn it to produce SO2). If using rubber as a feedstock, you'd have WAY more sulfur, and would need some way to handle the H2S other than incineration.

May not even be necessary, the resulting hydrocarbon may not be too high in olefins (was just guessing, but it makes sense).

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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by TacAir » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:38 pm

Related technology for sale now....

How to turn old tires into fuel cheaply!

The process is really simple.... If you heat tire waste in an oxygen free environment, it will melt, but will not burn. After it has melted, it will start to boil and evaporate, you just need to put those vapors through a cooling device and when cooled the vapors will condense to a liquid and some of the vapors with shorter hydrocarbon lengths will remain as a gas (similar to propane). The gas coming out of the cooling device then goes through a bubbler containing water to capture the last liquid forms of fuel and leave only gas that is then burned. If the cooling of the cooling tube is sufficient, there will be no fuel in the bubbler, but if not, the water will capture all the remaining fuel that will float above the water and can be poured off the water. The bottom of the cooling device is a reservoir that collects all of the liquid and it has a release valve on the bottom to empty the fuel.

Our Pyrolisis machines convert petroleum-based tires and used motor oil into furnace oil, synthetic light-medium oil (similar to diesel fuel) that can be further refined to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and diesel. The ERM process of scrap tire conversion reduces the stress on our landfills and helps reduce fossil fuel imports.

( see http://tyre2oil.com/process.html)
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by crypto » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:12 pm

I think the previous posts about sulfur absolutely apply here.
TacAir wrote:Related technology for sale now....

How to turn old tires into fuel cheaply!

The process is really simple.... If you heat tire waste in an oxygen free environment, it will melt, but will not burn. After it has melted, it will start to boil and evaporate, you just need to put those vapors through a cooling device and when cooled the vapors will condense to a liquid and some of the vapors with shorter hydrocarbon lengths will remain as a gas (similar to propane). The gas coming out of the cooling device then goes through a bubbler containing water to capture the last liquid forms of fuel and leave only gas that is then burned. If the cooling of the cooling tube is sufficient, there will be no fuel in the bubbler, but if not, the water will capture all the remaining fuel that will float above the water and can be poured off the water. The bottom of the cooling device is a reservoir that collects all of the liquid and it has a release valve on the bottom to empty the fuel.

Our Pyrolisis machines convert petroleum-based tires and used motor oil into furnace oil, synthetic light-medium oil (similar to diesel fuel) that can be further refined to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and diesel. The ERM process of scrap tire conversion reduces the stress on our landfills and helps reduce fossil fuel imports.

( see http://tyre2oil.com/process.html)
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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by fred.greek » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:38 pm

Personal opinion. The math is WAY off. Current plastics, converted back to fuel, cannot be anywhere NEAR 1,000 years of present consumption.

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Re: Plastic to fuel: A thousand years of gas.

Post by Dogan » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:22 pm

fred.greek wrote:Personal opinion. The math is WAY off. Current plastics, converted back to fuel, cannot be anywhere NEAR 1,000 years of present consumption.
To be honest, I wasn't thinking of present consumption. I was thinking post-apocalypse consumption with perhaps 10% of the current population surviving.
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