Wednesday April 16, 2003

Garbage In, Oil Out

"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, ... "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming."

A new process, soon to be in commercial production, uses heat and pressure and water to convert any form of organic waste into oil, natural gas, powdered carbon, and re-usable minerals. The oil can be further refined and distilled into gasoline, kerosene, and naphtha. The process, thermal depolymerization, can convert a wide variety of waste products, from plastic bottles to municipal sewage to food wastes to those heaps of tires that traditionally dot the landscape.

Thermal depolymerization has proven to be at least 85 percent energy efficient (that remaining 15% is used to run the process as the gases are burned on-site to make heat for power). Even the Oil companies seem to be taking a favorable stance; thermal depolymerization can make the current petroleum industry itself cleaner and more profitable.

Depending on the feedstock and the cooking and coking times, the process can be tweaked to make other specialty chemicals that may be even more profitable than oil. Turkey offal, for example, can be used to produce fatty acids for soap, tires, paints, and lubricants. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC—the stuff of house siding, wallpapers, and plastic pipes—yields hydrochloric acid, a relatively benign and industrially valuable chemical used to make cleaners and solvents.

Read the complete article in the May issue of Discover magazine.

Garbage In, Oil Out ( in category SciTech ) - posted at Wed, 16 Apr, 22:00 Pacific | Comments (1)