small scale pyrolysis plant for making fuel
Has anyone out there tried making a small scale pyrolysis plant for the really gross plastic and tires? I’ve been researching them a bit and it doesn’t seem too difficult, if anyone have experience with this process and has any pointers…
I made a few tests a year ago while i was waiting for my shredder parts.
Our experiment was really really simple just for a proof of concept.
we filled the plastic in a closed oil barrel and put it on the fire. We attached a pipe to the barrel and run it into a water filled bucket that functioned as a bubbler. The gases condensed and set on top of the water.
All i can say is that the outcome smelled like petrol but felt oilier, almost like diesel in the hand and it burned like hell!! 😉
I ran out of time and motivation for this so i didnt follow it further. The next experiment would have to be another setup with controlled heating to be able to see how much energy goes into it. And also a better bubbler with a real heat exchanger. next thing would be to clean the fuel.. or in a centrifugal thing or in a distillery to seperate the different fuels.
I´m pretty sure you can get clean and good fuels out of this, but how efficient and how “green” is it?
I think this is probably one of those ideas that sounds sensible, but has loads of practical complications; How to distribute the energy? How clean is it really? How to dispose of ash? Public support?
Interested to hear what your ideas are though.
I’ve been watching this closely too. PP user plaspod turned me on to the ‘Wastebot’ designed by Ben from Victory Gasworks.
he offers diy plans for $100 – to fund his further work with waste to fuels..
it’s a multimachine of sorts, using charcoal as both a heat source and a catalyst for breaking down long chains of plastic pyrolysis gases into their gaseous elemental form, that can later be burned for domestic heating or other light industrial processes. Gases can otherwise be routed through condensing units for collection before reburn via the charcoal catalyst.
true regulations are likely a nightmare with this – but this represents a kind of tech that seems feasible only when small
Our crew just wrapped up building what he calls the diy model – to date we’ve had 3 runs on it, mostly successful. This thing is great for dealing with hard to remove sticky paper labels, waste bits from PP processes that can’t be re-shredded, or some of the food waste covered plastics that are too gross to bother washing. For our last run we used 9 lbs of charcoal to gasify 5 lbs of these dirty plastics (no pvc, #7’s) in about 1.5 hrs. These aren’t impressive numbers… but we’re getting there.
with some dedication to our local scrapyard I’ve got less than $800 US at this point
Just another piece of interesting (I think) research, Plasma Pyrolysis.
@benc I have lots of experience with pyrolysis of biomass, and reclamation of liquid coproducts, all on a fairly small scale. We convert roughly 4 tons of biomass to charcoal a week in our retorts. The process heat and oil from this process is how we fuel many processes around our farm.
I would love to experiment with this kind of work with plastics and tires. I wouldn’t run it through our machines as is, but we’d be interested in constructing a bench top model for this.
That is not a bad idea, i would steer clear of any and all types of plastic with Chlorine and Fluorine in them as they may get released as they heat up
@zzchampion have a look at this research paper https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281064326_CONVERSION_OF_PLASTIC_WASTES_INTO_LIQUID_FUELS_-_A_REVIEW
all plastics have additives and mainly contain derivatives of formeldhyde which is extremely toxic. Pyrolysis is feasible but it depends on your feedstock ( the plasic you put into it)
If you are burning at high temperature how will you collect all by products in a safe manner and then store them and then distribute them?
You do get oil but you release a lot of toxins as well.
Also what other toxic chemicals will be in the mix?
Check this out http://www.instructables.com/id/Waste-Plastic-to-Fuel/
formeldehyde explaination https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/formaldehyde/
I dont know if you could do on a commercial basis?
I hope i have answered the question properly?
@tims I have been doing some research on this and have found that the extra compounds in plastics make it quite hard to deal with like formaldehyde, how would you deal with this compound in its raw form?
The energy needed to get the materials would not make it feasible if done on a small scale but if you can solve these problems please let me know. I would love to build a plant.
I’ve been on the energetic forum for some time, long before joining here.
The pyrolysis of plastic has been of interest to me due to the fuel produced being a valuble resource, for deprived communites.
Most things can be pyrolised, tires, waste oil and grease, and in our case waste plastic. except PVC, PET, ABS.
PVC gives off clorine gas, Which might be mitigated by the addition of an alkaline to the bubbler water. Would need to be tested.
PET Leaves behind a residue in the pipes, reducing internal diameter, increasing pressure, and in extreme cases may cause explosion.
ABS is nasty and pollut’s the bubbler water, to the extent that it’s disposal becomes a problem.
If you want to discuss this, you can probably find me here.
I tend to have it running most of the time.
How small is “small scale”?
See this 200-300 kg waste tyre plant – for tyres & plastic
The company in China that makes these normally sells 6/8/10 tonne per day machines. The 200 kg plant is for “demo” purposes, for customers to gain experience of the process. But would a unit of this size be useful in a small town?
@frogfall – Artisan scale.. yes! I’m not at all interested in large scale incineration plants that require massive amounts of waste plastic to stay viable. I think we can all agree reducing plastic is the first necessary step.
Our ‘wood oil’ (sometimes called bio-crude) represents about 20% of the total liquids yield from our biochar process. The other 80% is this acidic, water soluble stuff commonly called wood vinegar, or pyroligneous acid, of which methanol is only a small part. We don’t capture syngas, but it is burned to sustain the process, excess is burned with the energy captured in large hot water storage tanks. We’ve played around with syngas in ICEngines, but it’s dirty, and very corrosive.The bio-crude oil is shelf stable when stored in air tight containers. We’re burning crude made 4 years ago in a modified babington style gun burner. This stuff is energy dense and can burn very hot… hot enough for cast iron.
Definitely want to keep separate processes. And keep a plastic py unit small and experimental. Extra oil would be fantastic. The plastic char can be used as ‘carbon negative’ material in concrete and plastic composites. Or gasified for ICengines… we’ve had success with gasified charcoal in a lawnmower engine. If you’re curious, I write about our work at livingwebfarms.org/blog
I’d love to get a PP oven fired off of plastic py-oils. The electricity needs of running this equipment has always bugged me.
Global collaboration would be amazing. I’m confident we can do a small batch system. Anything automated/continuous would be a worthy challenge.
@lwfbiochar Is your”wood oil” high in methanol? Or is it mostly a heavier petroleum-like liquor? Do you capture any syngas, or is that consumed in the process?
I’m quite interested in finding out more about the biowaste to fuel possibilities – with biochar as an extra saleable byproduct.
Putting plastics into the mix will certainly raise the petroleum yield, but I’m guessing it might leave contaminated unsaleable “char”. Maybe it is best to think of them as seperate processes.
Thanks, Sonik. Great link. You too Frogfall. JL, I’d love to be a part of a collab if you want to go for something more precious-plastics-scale…. We’re near Asheville NC.
Our biochar systems are batch pyrolysis units – we’ll heat woody biomass up to 950F over the course of 8 or so hours. Our condensation process yields between 5 and 10 gallons of ‘wood oil’ / day. I wouldn’t have a clue what to expect from these downcycled plastics as feedstocks. Anyone who’s done these home scale projects know target temps?
Need to get those chemistry chops up – who knows how to figure what’s in these plastic pyrolysis gas condensates? And is there a ‘generally regarded as safe’ place to start?
This seems like a great way to deal with the stuff that’s downcycled beyond it’s utility. Reduce – Reuse – (Repair, Remanufacture) Recycle – RETORT!
Not going so well my friend, trying to get cost on made units and the price per machine seems to classified. Once I know the price then I’ll weigh up the cost of making it my self. My current idea is to make a small one to test and then go more into models that use shipping container perimeters. So far it seems to be profitable (taking a big hit on the front end… the by-products seems to marketable.) Still looking into it my dudes, some thing tells me this is going to be a long process.
I’m working on my design right now, no proof of concept. My first task is to get a trailer as my unit will be mobile (like tow behind a truck mobile not put in a box mobile). I’d like to work with you on a smaller … say home use version.
@benc have you made any progress with this? Check out Babington style burners for atomizing heavy, raw liquid fuels. this is where my head has been for a while now. Would love to share our progress if anyone’s interested. It’s too raw and intense of heat for forming plastics, but possibly after water heat exchange, could be used to shroud the oven w/ heat.
It would be awesome if we could also try this all into being off grid like for now lens off big screen TV for the smelting process Maybe off gassing to be used as another source for energy using compression Maybe the Ultimate Dream would be a processing plant and everybody’s house that would create fuel for their vehicle to fuel up their car in the garage a methane digester from their septic to provide propane for their house plastic recycling for not only for fuel but also for plastic Extrusion using 3D printing to print any type of object that might be needed if we could just clean up the plastic when is out there now into being all ingredients informative to this in process we might have a chance but anything is not good for one project might be good for another we can make it for any trash that a household accumulates would just be recycled right there into something they need
Ive made a pyrolysis setup and yet to test.all by products have a use.
I looked at doing this here in the Philippines.
Two MAJOR issues come up.
One is that the Koreans have offered this tech to any local government unit in the Philippines for 6 years. ZERO have taken up the offer.
Second is that the Environmental regulations for plastic pyrolysis is going to be insane. The very same people that are in this type of project will fight you tooth and nail to build this machine. Most ly out of ignorance and opposition to “oil refineries”
However if it was done as a jungle refinery (google the jungle refineries in Nigeria and Indonesia) it is totally doable.
Frankly I am still mystified as to why the plastic is not fed right back into existing oil refineries as feed stock.
Option two is to use as a substitute for asphalt tar in roads. Especially now with the higher oil prices, the use of scrap plastic becomes a more viable option.
Large scale plants are already being built (or at least being talked about). An example from the UK: 80 jobs could be created by new £20m plastic-to-fuel reprocessing plant in Grimsby.
A major new industrial investment could see 80 jobs created in Grimsby as a £20 million plastic-to-fuel reprocessing plant is brought forward.If given the go-ahead, the team intends to convert 65,000 tonnes of plastic into 69 million litres of fuel annually…
I can see that this sort of thing will be fine as a destination for waste collected by numerous cities – as city-scale collection can be massive. The operation might even pay cities for a dependable waste feed. However, smaller towns will not have the volumes of waste that would be of interest to these processors – and the towns might be put in the situation of having to pay the processor to take waste plastic off their hands.
In that situation, local “artisan” processors might be viable. Transport costs would be low, and batch sizes could be managable using relatively low cost facilities. The products could possibly be marketable as heating oil, as it might be too expensive to meet the purity standards required for transport fuels at a sensible cost.
So yes, it still needs a lot more thinking…
Possibly useful document:
The report commissioned by the American Chemistry Council, and undertaken by Ocean Recovery Alliance, is intended as a discussion tool for a variety of local and international stakeholders including: municipal and national governments, corporations, community leaders, business associations, NGOs, project developers, and others interested in the management of end-of-life plastic waste. It aims to highlight the opportunities available for creating value from plastics, in concert with the regulatory, technical and logistical barriers that need to be overcome on the path towards the widespread commercial adoption of plastics-to-fuel (PTF) technology. The report can aid stakeholders by facilitating knowledge-sharing and regulatory convergence to expedite project deployment. Not intended as a replacement to traditional recycling practices, but given the large percentage of plastic waste that bypass recycling programs for reasons such as lack of infrastructure, capacity, and technology, PTF is becoming a viable addition to a jurisdictions mix of municipal solid waste management (MSW) management strategies.
One suggestion for a possible heat source for pyrolysis: small scale concentrated solar.
Have a look at this video:
I’ve been keeping an eye on the GoSol project for a few years – as I think they have got a good economical way for people to capture sufficient solar thermal radiation for a variety of uses. They have been promoting the use of their mirror arrays for cooking and dehydrating food – but it is possible that there could be enough concentrated heat, in one of these devices, to at least initiate pyrolysis in a relatively small reaction chamber. What temperatures need to be maintained for pryrolysis to take place?
How small is small scale? If we pursue this, I’ll keep it on a pallet. There’s too many unknowns to scale up from there. Toxicity of condensates is a huge concern for me. That, and gasses that don’t get completely combusted.
Thanks for the tip! I’ve never heard of this plasma technique. Seems the way to deal with the most hazardous of wastes
I’m going to bench this project for a least a bit. We’re switching gears for the short term: as we use them now, our charcoal retorts have lots of leftover heat we can readily use for large compression molding projects. Still though, we’re collecting plenty of odd nuggets of plastic from our extrusion and injection experiments that would be the perfect feedstock. One step at a time…
Interesting. However, according to wikipedia the energy consumed by the plasma process can be larger than the energy reclaimed – so the entire carbon content of the waste will be vented to the atmosphere, and there will be no benefit in terms of generating electricity or collecting liquid fuel.
That is fine for compacting waste into a small space (as stated in the talk) – which explains why it is a useful process for dealing with the waste on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. But for municipal waste it seems a bit pointless. At least municipal incinerators generate electricity. And pyrolysis allows for the collection of some fuel for future use.
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