PyrOil – Oil from waste plastic

Waste plastic entering the natural environment is a growing problem around the world. Dutch company PyrOil is planning to provide one solution to clean up this problem by using the waste plastic as a raw material and converting back into oil.

PyrOil uses all types of waste plastic as a raw material for its process. This waste is broken down using pyrolysis (intense heat) into simple molecules. The process produces:

  • oil (without sulphur)
  • burnable gas
  • ash

The oil is the principle product. PyrOil has contracts of intent with for at least the first 120,000 tonnes of oil produced each year. This oil can be used in ordinary refinery plants in place of oil extracted from the ground. One key market is seen to be the maritime sector with the aim of providing fuel that meets the 2020 official standards.

The gas that is produced is used to provide the heat for the pyrolysis process, and also burnt to produce electrical energy.

The remaining ash is used to produce asphalt.

One advantage of the PyrOil process is that the molecules in the waste plastic raw material can be converted and then remade into new long chain molecules. When plastic is conventionally recycled molecules are damaged and made shorter, which means that they cannot be used to create medical and food grade plastics. This reduction of quality has been nicknamed “downcycling” as the quality of the end product reduces with each cycle of use. One consequence of this is that a large proportion of recycled plastic ends up being dumped or simply burnt, which wastes the complex chemicals in the plastic.

The molecules from the PyrOil process – on the other hand – are full length and can produce food and medical grade materials. The process is also “closed” which means that it is more than twice as efficient at removing harmful chemicals than incineration. The other plus being that energy is also generated as a by product.

In the past the pyrolysis of plastic has been performed successfully in batches, but PyrOil is the first to succeed in a continual production process.

To compensate for the CO2 that could be released from the oil that it produces, PyrOil is planning to plant new woodland which will capture the released CO2.

The first industrial scale PyrOil installations will be built in 2019. In the future, PyrOil is aiming to extend the technology to the recycling of rubber in vehicle tyres.