Yukon researchers testing plastic-to-oil conversion technology9/18/2012
Researchers in the Yukon are testing a machine that can convert used plastics into diesel fuel.
The machine, developed by the Japanese company Blest, takes plastic items and transforms them into a fuel that can be burned without refining.
In an interview from Whitehorse this week, the director of Yukon College's Cold Climate Innovation centre explained how the first continuous-feed plastics to oil machine in North America works.
Put simply, "this machine heats up the plastic, then turns it into a liquid, and then it gasifies and then it condenses," Stephen Mooney told CTV News Channel.
"Through that process, the plastic is turned into a synthetic fuel we can use in our furnaces and boilers throughout the Yukon."
There are seven categories of plastics, Mooney explained, noting that a wide variety of them can be put through the machine. But Mooney said researchers in Whitehorse are concentrating on those kinds that have little value otherwise.
"Number ones and twos are worth money," Mooney said, referring to the types of plastics, typically found in milk jugs and pop bottles, that can be recycled effectively and easily already.
"What this project is focusing on is the fours, fives and sixes," Mooney said, explaining consumers might recognize those as "film plastics" such as grocery and garbage bags.
"They are worth zero in the recycling world, so there's no monetary value for those to be bought back by recyclers," he explained.
"The energy used to process that is more than the end product."
According to Mooney, the machine now running in Whitehorse will use one kilowatt of electricity to convert one kilogram of plastic into one litre of oil.
"This machine will do 10 kilograms an hour," he said, noting that their model occupies a footprint equivalent to a pair of office desks.
The aim, he added, is to get the approximately $200,000 machine up and running 24 hours a day, seven days week. At that pace, it could yield up to 240 litres of synthetic diesel daily.
The project makes a lot of sense for the Yukon, Mooney suggested. Not only might it save shipping certain plastics thousands of kilometres to a recycling plant that can handle them, it diverts other less recyclable plastics out of landfill.
But Mooney said the concept has applications further south too, where larger, more expensive machines could be used to convert greater volumes of plastic.
"It's not the be all and end all of recycling," Mooney said. "But there is a lot of commercial plastic that enters the landfill.
"So if we can turn divert that plastic from our landfill ... I think that's a good use of it."
The fuel produced by the machine in Whitehorse will be used to heat the 600 square foot P and M Recycling facility this winter.
"We will definitely create way more fuel than we need, so the next job is to find customers that are willing to try something new," P and M owner Pat McInroy said in a statement.
He expects to save the $18,000 he spent on heating oil last year, as well as the money he would have spent sorting, baling and transporting the plastic to be recycled in the south.
”This machine is creating a value-added product right here. It’s a win/win for the Yukon,” he said.
Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/yukon-researchers-testing-plastic-to-oil-conversion-technology-1.961212#ixzz26qemTfqB