Tags: biofuels | indiana plant | brightmark energy | plastic recyclables | environment

Indiana Plant To Convert Waste Plastic Into Fuel

Indiana Plant To Convert Waste Plastic Into Fuel

A warehouse in Australia is choked with recyclables. Much of it will end up in landfills. (Jason South/The Age via Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 16 August 2019 04:04 PM

Chemical engineers will soon be doing something that medieval alchemists could not: Transforming a common byproduct of little merit into a useful resource of tremendous value.

In this case, the modern-day alchemy involves converting thousands of tons of plastic waste that otherwise would clog landfills and the environment, and converting it into fuel that will bolster U.S. energy independence.

Sound far-fetched? Well, it’s for real and it’s totally science-based. Just ask San Francisco-based Brightmark Energy.

Brightmark Energy CEO Bob Powell tells Newsmax that although the Brightmark facility will be the first of its kind, the process itself isn’t new.

“The original invention was done 14 years ago in the state of Ohio,” Powell says, adding that he’s been working on refining the process ever since.

To understand how the process works, it’s helpful to understand that plastic is itself a petroleum product.

It’s based upon the fact that common plastic is itself derived from petrochemicals. Adding ethylene and propylene to the volatile compound naphtha — a volatile product distilled from petroleum — forms the very useful, long-chain polymers that we call plastics.

Through a process called pyrolysis that process can be reversed, meaning plastic can be converted back into fuel. Pyrolysis involves shredding the plastic into small pieces, which are then subjected to heat inside special tanks. This breaks down the polymer chains into smaller hydrocarbons, which in turn can be refined into diesel fuel and naphtha.

With the world and its oceans literally awash in excess plastic, the ability to turn it into an energy source could be golden. And the company is so confident, it’s undertaking a major corporate development.

Brightmark executives project that their $260 million, 112,000-square-foot facility located in Ashley, Ind., will be completed by the end of 2020.

The Ashley facility will be the first U.S. plant to convert single-use plastics into diesel and naphtha. Each year, it will convert over 100,000 tons of plastic -- equal in weight to roughly 5,400 tractor trailers, the company says. Perhaps the best news, for Americans who also care about U.S. energy independence: RecyclingToday.com reports the plant will generate over 18 million gallons of clean, low-sulfur diesel fuel and naphtha blend stocks, as well as nearly 6 million gallons of commercial grade wax.

Converting plastic to fuel would add even more momentum to America’s push to become a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since the 1950s.

“It's a great time to be an American,” declared Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. “We're the No. 1 oil and gas producing country in the world. We're delivering our liquefied natural gas to 36 different countries. We're impacting the geopolitical framework of the world in a way, maybe certainly since World War II, that we haven't been able to.”

Powell is particularly proud of the fact that unlike renewable technologies like wind and solar, Brightmark does not receive any federal subsidies. And he notes the process is 93 percent efficient — only 7 percent of the waste is unrecoverable.

The end result: Millions of gallons of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel and naphtha at market prices.

Powell calls it “a true win-win situation.” Companies like British Petroleum are already signing deals to purchase Brightmark’s products. And a cleaner environment will be one of the byproducts.

Powell notes: “What’s really powerful about what we do here is, if you were to compare us pulling plastics out of the environment -- the oceans, and the landfills -- and then producing these fuels, the carbon footprint is much lower.”

The plant will employ 136 full time workers. But its most important contribution will be a new market for the huge volumes of plastic waste produced every day. Helping the United States continue to remain the world’s No. 1 energy producer is just an added benefit.

Powell tells Newsmax that he sees the Ashley plant as just the beginning.

“We will tackle this plastics problem globally,” he predicts. “This is just the first of what we expect to be a really great technology that we can deploy beyond even the States here.”

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
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Chemical engineers will soon be doing something that medieval alchemists could not: Transforming a common byproduct of little merit into a useful resource of tremendous value.In this case, the modern-day alchemy involves converting thousands of tons of plastic waste that...
biofuels, indiana plant, brightmark energy, plastic recyclables, environment
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2019-04-16
Friday, 16 August 2019 04:04 PM
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