Greefuels AG - Mixed plastics to high-grade fuel oil

Organizations Involved: Greenfuels AG, Klean Industries, FE, Bayer, BASF

The Challenge:

Germany is second only to Japan in terms of recycling more waste than any other country in the world. Seeing five different colored bins for waste disposal is commonplace and the industry has set their own recycling targets that are the highest in Europe. Germany currently recycles an impressive 1.7million tons of plastics a year ("TPA") from a total of 2.8million TPA. Despite the highly efficient processing and recycling technologies currently in place there still remains 1.1 million tons of plastic that cannot be recycled by traditional methods or is the residual waste from previous recycling operations. This non-recyclable fraction is destined for mass-burn incineration or the increasingly restricted option of landfills. A significant opportunity, therefore, exists for a resource recovery operation that can unlock the potential one billion liters of oil in this waste stream.

The Solution:

Greenfuels AG, a developer of Cleantech projects has approached Klean Industries Inc., to propose a thermal processing solution to the mixed waste plastics that are not presently recycled. Greenfuels have already secured a suitable eight-acre site in the industrial area in former East Germany and requires a high spec fuel oil that is low in sulfur and can be used as a generic fuel for the heavy industry that exists locally.

The first step was to analyze and test a sample of the waste plastics that Greenfuels has secured, which Klean Industries sent to Japan for liquefaction at one of its test facilities. A series of tests were conducted to discover the maximum yield of oil achievable from the client's specific waste stream and the ideal processing temperatures and residence time were established. Within one month of receiving the sample waste, Klean Industries was able to propose a solution that would produce the high spec fuel demanded by the client. The proposed technology, already commercialized and proven in Japan, incorporates a 100 ton a day continuous liquefaction process that heats the plastic waste in the presence of a catalyst to produce a naphtha rich, hydrocarbon gas. This gas is then cooled and condensed to produce a fuel oil comparable to virgin fuel, but with cleaner-burning properties. The non-condensable gases are returned to the reactor for use as process heat.

Greenfuels has since asked Klean Industries to joint venture on this project whereby they would be responsible for the design, build, and operation of the plant and Greenfuels would manage all feedstock contracts with their suppliers including Bayer and BASF as well as securing local off-take partners. This opportunity along with a pipeline of similar projects is under consideration by Klean Industries, who already have plans for their first plastic to oil facility to be located in Vancouver, Canada which will be wholly owned by the company.

The Outcome:

  • Over 35,000 TPA of mixed plastic waste diverted from landfill
  • 33 million liters of "End of Life Plastic Diesel" for domestic use
  • Off-sets 100,000 TPA of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Preservation of fossil fuels
  • A new green industry in a deprived industrial area
  • Benefits to the local industry who gain from a less expensive and greener fuel