Gasoline from Scrap Plastic

A litre of gasoline can be obtained from a kilogram of old plastic sachets by appying a technology being developed by the specialists of the D.I. Mendeleev Russian Chemical-Engineering University. This is one of unique examples how the scientists can use a material initially made of petroleum to get if not oil per se again but the product of petroleum refining - engine fuel.

“The idea of carbonic waste processing into carbohydrates is certainly no new news, says project manager Valery Shvets, Doctor of Chemistry, Professor. For example, two plants – a pilot one and an industrial-scale plant - have recently started operating in the US to process turkey factory wastes, mainly skin, feather and grease, into engine fuel. We, for our part, decided to focus our efforts on obtaining gasoline mainly from man-caused carbonic wastes – such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate wastes. And we have achieved a lot of progress in this direction.”

The technology suggested by V.F. Shvets and his colleagues is based on catalytic thermal treatment of polymeric materials. Its basic stages are as follows. First, the wastes should be grinded (it is not necessary to wash them) and melted down. Them they should be mixed with the catalyst powder and exposed to thermal destruction, simply speaking –kept for some time in the reactor at a definite temperature and pressure.

The catalyst composition is not discussed by the researchers in public press – it is being patented now. It is only known that these are grinded wastes of a single production. Further, the liquid hydrocarbon fraction, which is practically gasoline, is topped and collected from the obtained mass. The authors suggest that gaseous decomposition products should be used as fuel: partly in the same production to ensure the required treatment process temperature, and the remainder – in any other process where fuel gases are needed.

The plant’s working model, or more precisely – a prototype model, is installed on the laboratory desk and functions duly. The plant allows to produce a liter of gasoline and a little fuel gas from a kilogram of polyethylene garbage (the petrol fraction content in the products of treatment reaches 90 percent). The waste represents black viscous substance resembling tar, saturated by the catalyst powder. There remains about a table-spoon amount of it per liter of gasoline. In principle, this product can also be used or burned down – then catalyst can be returned into the process.

Now the researchers continue the work in several directions at once. On the one hand, the reactor for the industry should be large, so scaling is to be performed, however, the authors will not be able to cope with this task independently – they will need to work jointly with production workers. On the other hand, the researchers are striving to make the process continuous, and they have made a lot of progress in this direction. And finally, one of the tasks is to develop a similar technology for processing animal and phytogenic wastes - meat-processing and poultry factory wastes. The US researchers have patented their technology and of course did not reveal the know-how. But the Russian chemists are sure: anything devised and made by one person can be invented by another person and even in a better way. Judging by the results already achieved, this is not beyond their powers.

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