There and Back Again: Turning Plastic Into Oil

Apr 7, 2011

We are producing ever larger amounts of plastic waste. There is enough plastic in the Pacific Ocean gyre to fill Texas twice, and there are two trillion pounds of plastic sitting in US landfills. And at the same time, oil prices are going up at a rapid rate. Well, an Oregon company called Agilyx may have a solution to both of these pressing problems. The company has a patented method of converting plastic waste into synthetic crude oil.

Agilyx uses a set of four primary vessels, along with some secondary processing equipment, and can convert 10 tons of plastic into around 2,400 gallons of crude each day. You can see the process step-by-step here. The waste plastic is ground up, placed into a cartridge that is placed inside one of the vessels. Hot air is circulated around the cartridges, melts the plastic, and turns the plastic into a gas. The gas is pulled through a central condensing system, where it is cooled and condensed into synthetic crude. Impurities are filtered out, and gases that don't condense are made environmentally friendly and released into the atmosphere (this part is a bit scary). Then, the oil can be sold to a refinery, mixed with regular crude oil, and distilled. It could possibly even be made back into plastic again.

This process can't be used with all plastics, only those made from hydrocarbons, like ABS, polycarbonate, and polypropylene. PVC doesn't include hydrocarbons, so cannot be used. No word yet on the cost of this process, or how much oil has to cost to make it viable. We hope this becomes mainstream, as it is quite an elegant solution. Getting rid of waste, and producing something useful at the same time. Your old computer, TV, or printer might actually power your car someday. Fantastic!

[via PC World]

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