Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Plastics to Oil? Not in my backyard!

Efforts to convert plastics to oil have been getting a lot of good press lately. People seem to like the ashed-to-ashes, dust-to-dust approach of taking petroleum-based plastics and turning them back into oil. (This is all done via the miracle of anaerobic pyrolysis, and the output is a very sweet oil since there is very little or no sulfur in the feedstock.)

But the fly in the ointment seems to be the same issue faced by any chemical plant: where to build it? And we all know the answer - not in my backyard! That was what happened in Smith Falls, Ontario the other day. Attendees at the Town Hall were 21-1 against the proposal. The facility would only process polyethylene (both high- and low-density) and polypropylene, both of which are pure hydrocarbons, so I'm not sure what the concerns are from residents "...about the possibility of a fire at the plant which they said, could potentially expose residents to toxic fumes." Pure hydrocarbons burn pretty cleanly, especially compared to say, PVC (which inherently gives of hydrochloric acid), polyurethanes which can give off isocyanates, etc.

While Canada is a net exporter of oil, eastern Canada has some gaps in its pipelines with western Canada and so the east has to import some oil. Hence the potential use for a project such as this. Putting such in a facility in say, Edmonton would be the equivalent of setting up an ice factory in Fairbanks, Alaska.

I wonder how much a similar project here in the US would face similar resistance. We will find out as this trending technology will not disappear anytime soon.

Previous Years

November 19, 2013 - Your Plastic Waste is Valuable

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