- Thermal depolymerization
Thermal depolymerization (TDP) is a process using
hydrous pyrolysisfor the reduction of complex organic materials (usually wasteproducts of various sorts, often known as biomassand plastic) into light crude oil. It mimics the natural geological processes thought to be involved in the production of fossil fuels. Under pressure and heat, long chain polymers of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbondecompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbonswith a maximum length of around 18 carbons.
Thermal depolymerisation is similar to other processes which use
superheated wateras a major step in their processing to produce fuels, such as direct Hydrothermal Liquefaction [ cite web
title = Biomass Program, direct Hydrothermal Liquefaction
publisher = US Department of Energy. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
url = http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pyrolysis.html#thermal
accessdate = 2008-01-12 ] and
hydrous pyrolysis. Thermochemical conversion (TCC) can mean conversion of biomass to oils using superheated water, although it more usually is applied to fuel production via pyrolysis. [ cite journal
last = Demirba
first = Ayhan
title = Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass to Liquid Products in the Aqueous Medium
journal = Energy Sources
volume = 27
issue = 13
pages = 1235-1243
publisher = Taylor Francis
date = 2005-10-7
url = http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/ueso/2005/00000027/00000013/art00005
accessdate = 2008-02-05 ] [cite paper
first = Yuanhui
last = Zhang
coauthors = Gerald Riskowski and Ted Funk
title = Thermochemical Conversion of Swine Manure to Produce Fuel and Reduce Waste
publisher = University of Illinois
date = 1999
url = http://www.age.uiuc.edu/bee/RESEARCH/tcc/tccpaper3.htm
accessdate = 2008-02-05] The Thermal Conversion Process is another name for thermal depolymerisation. A company called Renewable Environmental Solutions (RES) was formed as a joint venture between
ConAgra Foodsand Changing World Technologiesto operate the plant at Carthage, Missouriand the name of the process was changed. [cite web
title = Biomass Program. Agricultural mixed waste biorefinery using Thermal Conversion Process (TCP)
publisher = U.S. Department of Energy
date = 2006-08
url = http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/agricultural_waste.pdf
accessdate = 2008-02-05] [cite web
title = Chronology of a Proven Technology Using Thermal Processing
publisher = Renewable Environmental Solutions LLC
url = http://res-energy.com/press/pdf/Chronology%20of%20a%20Proven%20Technology.pdf
accessdate = 2008-02-05 ]
[http://www.enertech.com EnerTech] operates the "SlurryCarb" process, which uses similar technology to decarboxylate wet solid biowaste, which can then be physically dewatered and used as a solid fuel called E-Fuel. The plant at
Rialto, Californiais said to be able to process 683 tons of waste per day. [ cite web
last = Sforza
first = Teri
title = New plan replaces sewage sludge fiasco
publisher = Orange county register
date = 2007-03-14
url = http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/news/local/article_1620010.php
accessdate = 2008-01-27 ]
The Hydro Thermal Upgrading (HTU) process was originally developed by Shell, and is now operated by Biofuel BV. It uses superheated water to produce oil from a range of biomass and domestic waste. [cite web
last = de Swaan Arons
first = Jakob
coauthors = H. van derKooi and Wei Feng
title = Hydrothermal Upgrading of Biomass
publisher = University of Delft
url = http://www.dct.tudelft.nl/ttf/biomass.htm
accessdate = 2008-02-05] A demonstration plant is due to start up in the Netherlands said to be capable of processing 64 tons of biomass (dry basis) per day into oil. [cite web
last = Goudriaan
first = Frans
coauthors = Naber, Jaap and van den Berg, Ed
title = Conversion of Biomass Residues to Transportation Fuels with th HTU Process
url = http://www.nvrd.nl/nvrd/proceedings/downloadProceedings.asp?filename=618085%20Paper.pdf&filesize=85441
accessdate = 2008-01-12 ] Thermal depolymerisation differs in that it contains a hydrous process followed by an anhydrous cracking / distillation process, although upgrading of the raw HTU product is also possible.
Thermal depolymerization is similar to the geological processes that produced the fossil fuels used today, except that the technological process occurs in a timeframe measured in
hours. Until recently, the human-designed processes were not efficient enough to serve as a practical source of fuel—more energywas required than was produced.
Many previous methods which create hydrocarbons through depolymerization used dry materials (or anhydrous pyrolysis), which requires expending a lot of energy to remove
water. However, there has been work done on hydrous pyrolysismethods, in which the depolymerization takes place with the materials in water. In U. S. patent [http://www.google.com/patents?id=-MlwAAAAEBAJ 2,177,557] , issued in 1939, Bergstrom and Cederquist discuss a method for obtaining oil from wood in which the wood is heated under pressure in water with a significant amount of calcium hydroxideadded to the mixture. In the early 1970s Herbert R. Appell and coworkers worked with hydrous pyrolysis methods, as exemplified by U. S. patent [http://www.google.com/patents?id=UEU9AAAAEBAJ 3,733,255] (issued in 1973), which discusses the production of oil from sewer sludgeand municipal refuse by heating the material in water, under pressure, and in the presence of carbon monoxide.
An approach that exceeded
break-evenwas developed by Illinoismicrobiologist Paul Baskisin the 1980s and refined over the next 15 years (see U. S. patent [http://www.google.com/patents?id=0LYmAAAAEBAJ 5,269,947] , issued in 1993). The technology was finally developed for commercial use in 1996 by Changing World Technologies(CWT). Brian S. Appel(CEO of CWT) took the technology in 2001 and expanded and changed it into what is now referred to as TCP (Thermal Conversion Process), and has applied for several patents (see, for example, published patent application US 2004/0192980). A Thermal Depolymerization demonstration plant was completed in 1999 in Philadelphiaby Thermal Depolymerization, LLC, and the first full-scale commercial plant was constructed in Carthage, Missouri, about 100 yards (100 m) from ConAgra Foods' massive Butterballturkey plant, where it is expected to process about 200 tons of turkey waste into 500 barrels (21,000 US gallons or 80 m³) of oil per day.
Theory and process
In the method used by CWT, the water improves the heating process and contributes hydrogen to the reactions.
Changing World Technologies(CWT) process, [The description of the operation of the process, including temperatures, pressures, and time, has been adapted from the description in Brad Lemley (May 2003). [http://discovermagazine.com/2003/may/featoil/ Anything Into Oil.] Discover. See also the description of the operation of the process in Appel et al, published U. S. patent application US [http://www.google.com/patents?id=VrGfAAAAEBAJ 2004/0192980] , publication date September 30, 2004.] the feedstock material is first ground into small chunks, and mixed with water if it is especially dry. It is then fed into a pressure vesselreaction chamber where it is heated at constant volume to around 250 °C. Similar to a pressure cooker(except at much higher pressure), steam naturally raises the pressure to 600 psi (4 MPa) (near the point of saturated water). These conditions are held for approximately 15 minutes to fully heat the mixture, after which the pressure is rapidly released to boil off most of the water (see: Flash evaporation). The result is a mix of crude hydrocarbons and solid minerals. The minerals are removed, and the hydrocarbons are sent to a second-stage reactor where they are heated to 500 °C, further breaking down the longer hydrocarbon chains. The hydrocarbons are then sorted by fractional distillation, in a process similar to conventional oil refining.
The CWT company claims that 15 to 20% of feedstock energy is used to provide energy for the plant. The remaining energy is available in the converted product. Working with turkey
offalas the feedstock, the process proved to have yield efficiencies of approximately 85%; in other words, the energy contained in the end products of the process is 85% of the energy contained in the inputs to the process (most notably the energy content of the feedstock, but also including electricity for pumps and natural gas or woodgasfor heating). If one considers the energy content of the feedstock to be free (i.e., waste material from some other process), then 85 units of energy are made available for every 15 units of energy consumed in process heat and electricity. This means the "Energy Returned on Energy Invested" (EROEI) is (6.67), which is comparable to other energy harvesting processes. Higher efficiencies may be possible with drier and more carbon-rich feedstocks, such as waste plastic.
By comparison, the current processes used to produce ethanol and
biodieselfrom agricultural sources have EROEI in the 4.2 range, when the energy used to produce the feedstocks is accounted for (in this case, usually sugar cane, corn, soybeans and the like). These EROEI values are not directly comparable, because these EROEI calculations include the energy cost to produce the feedstock, whereas the above EROEI calculation for thermal depolymerization process (TDP) does not.
The process breaks down almost all materials that are fed into it. TDP even efficiently breaks down many types of hazardous materials, such as
poisons and difficult-to-destroy biological agents such as prions.
Feedstocks and outputs with thermal depolymerization
"(Note: Paper/cellulose contains at least 1% minerals, which was probably grouped under carbon solids.)"
Carthage plant products
The yield from one U.S. ton (907kg) of turkey waste is 600 pounds (272 kg) (30%) petroleum, 100 pounds (45 kg) (5%) butane/methane, and 60 pounds (27 kg) (3%) minerals. In addition, the water is recycled back into the system for reuse.Fact|date=October 2008
The Carthage, MO plant produces API 40+, a high value crude oil comparable to diesel fuel. It contains light and heavy
naphthas, a kerosene, and a gas oilfraction, with essentially no heavy fuel oils, tars, asphaltenes or waxes present.
The fixed carbon solids produced by the TDP process have multiple uses as a filter, a fuel source and a fertilizer. It can be used as activated carbon in
wastewatertreatment, as a fertilizer, or as a fuel similar to coal.
The process can break down organic poisons, due to breaking chemical bonds and destroying the molecular shape needed for the poison's activity. It is highly effective at killing pathogens, including
prions. It can also safely remove heavy metalsfrom the samples by converting them from their ionized or organometallic forms to their stable oxides which can be safely separated from the other products.
Plants photosynthesize organic matter from water and
carbon dioxide- which has been released into the atmospherein large quantities from the burning of fossil fuels since the start of industrialization. At least in theory, these spent fossil fuels can be fully recycled by thermal depolymerization, using plant organic matter as input material.
Despite the somewhat similar output materials, the technical process of thermal depolymerization is quite different from
biomass-to-liquid biofuelproduction, as the former yields mineral oils that can be refined into petrol, while the latter produces synfuels which are of inferior quality for current internal combustionengines.
Whether thermal depolymerization of plantstuffs can alleviate the growing scarcity of crude oil is unproven however. A potential benefit is that as opposed to animal waste, the water content of plant matierals - which typically is very high, in excess of 80 or even 90% - can be reduced by drying with less risk of spoilage. As noted above, the possibility of using plant matter as input material has been proven. It was found though that when using fairly pure
cellulosefibers the output consists of considerably more natural gasthan mineral oils, compared to other input materials.
Potential sources of waste inputs
United States Environmental Protection Agencyestimates that in 2006 there were 251 million tons of municipal solid waste, or 4.6 pounds generated per day per person in the USA. [ [http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/facts.htm Municipal Solid Waste - Basic Facts] ] Much of this mass is considered unsuitable for oil conversion however.
The process only breaks long molecular chains into shorter ones, so small molecules such as
carbon dioxideor methanecannot be converted to oil through this process. However, the methane in the feedstock is recovered and burned to heat the water that is an essential part of the process. In addition, the gas can be burned in a gas turbine; connected to a generator, the electricity can also be sold to consumers and the heat from the engine is then used to heat the water. This also increases the efficiency of the process (already said to be over 85% of feedstock energy content).
Many agricultural and animal wastes could be processed, but many of these are already used as
fertilizer, animal feed, and, in some cases, as feedstocks for paper mills or as boilerfuel.
Reports in 2004 claimed that the facility was selling products at 10% below the price of equivalent oil, but its production costs were low enough that the plant produced a profit. At the time it was paying for turkey waste (see also below).
The plant then consumed 270 tons of turkey offal (the full output of the turkey processing plant) and 20 tons of egg production waste daily. According to a 2/1/2005 article by Fortune Magazine, the Carthage plant was producing about convert|400|oilbbl/d|m3/d of crude oil. This oil is being refined as No. 2 (a standard grade oil which is used for diesel and residential heating oil) and No. 4 (a lower grade oil used in industrial heating).
In April 2005 the plant was reported to be running at a loss. Further 2005 reports summarized some economic setbacks which the Carthage plant encountered since its planning stages. It was thought that concern over mad cow disease would prevent the use of turkey waste and other animal products as cattle feed, and thus this waste would be free. As it turned out, turkey waste may still be used as feed in the United States, so that the facility must purchase that feed stock at a cost of $30 to $40 per ton, adding $15 to $20 per barrel to the cost of the oil. Final cost, as of January 2005, was $80/barrel ($1.90/gal).
The above cost of production also excludes the operating cost of the thermal oxidizer and scrubber added in May 2005 in response to odor complaints (see below).
A biofuel tax credit of roughly $1 per US gallon (26 ¢/L) on production costs was not available because the oil produced did not meet the definition of "biodiesel" according to the relevant American tax legislation. The
Energy Policy Act of 2005specifically added thermal depolymerization to a $1 renewable diesel credit, which became effective at the end of 2005.
As reported on 04/02/2006 by Discover Magazine, the Carthage plant was producing convert|500|oilbbl/d|m3/d of oil made from 270 tons of turkey guts and 20 tons of pig fat. A federal subsidy (the Energy Policy Act of 2005) allowed a profit of $4/barrel of output oil.
The company has explored expansion in California, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and is presently examining projects in Europe, where animal products cannot be used as cattle feed. TDP is also being considered as an alternative means for sewage treatment in the United States. [cite web |url=http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2004-01-22-kantor_x.htm |title=Killing germs, reducing waste, making oil: TDP might be the next big thing |accessdate=2007-02-21 |last=Kantor |first=Andrew |date= 2004-01-23 |work=
USA Today|quote=The City of Philadelphia currently turns a lot of its sewage sludge into landfill. (All together now: Eww.) But working with Changing World, the city is planning a TDP project to divert that sludge — and whatever pathogens are living in it — away from the land and into oil. ]
The pilot plant in Carthage was temporarily shut down due to smell complaints. It was soon restarted when it was discovered that few of the odors were generated by the plant. [Reported by the Kansas City Star,
April 12, 2005. The Kansas City Star website has since archived this article: [http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?s_dispstring=(turkey-to-oil)%20AND%20date(2005) Kansas City: Search results] ] Furthermore, the plant agreed to install an enhanced thermal oxidizer and to upgrade its air scrubbersystem under a court order. [ [http://www.ago.mo.gov/lawsuits/2005/050605rescarthage.pdf In the circuit court of Jasper country, Missouri, at Carthage]
"The company said it has finished installation of a thermal oxidizer and upgraded odor scrubber system that were ordered as part of a consent agreement with the city and the Missouri attorney general's office." [http://www.joplinglobe.com/story.php?story_id=188739&c=87 City questions RES] ] Since the plant is located only four blocks from the tourist-attracting town center, this has strained relations with the mayor and citizens of Carthage.
According to a company spokeswoman, the plant has received complaints even on days when it is not operating. She also contended that the odors may not have been produced by their facility, which is located near several other agricultural processing plants. ["A plant spokeswoman, Julie Gelfand, tells the Pitch that repeated odor complaints have been lodged on days when the plant wasn't in operation or when wind conditions were inconsistent with the complaints." [http://www.pitch.com/Issues/2005-11-24/news/feature_4.html Fowl & Crude] ]
December 29, 2005, the plant was ordered by the state governor to shut down once again over allegations of foul odors as reported by MSNBC. ["A foul-smelling plant that turns turkey byproducts into fuel oil was ordered closed by the governor Wednesday until the company finds a way to clear the air." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10636943 Turkey-oil plant closed due to foul odors] ]
March 7, 2006, the plant has begun limited test runs to validate it has resolved the odor issue. ["An experimental plant that turns turkey byproducts into fuel oil can resume normal operations for 15 days to test whether new equipment solves a problem with bad smells that prompted the state to shut it down in December. [http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/local/14040813.htm] ]
August 24, 2006, the last lawsuit connected with the odor issue has been dismissed and the problem is acknowledged as fixed. ["The last lawsuit left from a dispute over odors from a plant that converts turkey waste into fuel oil was dismissed Thursday after the facility fixed its odor problems." [http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/business/15352930.htm Last lawsuit dropped in Carthage turkey plant odor case] ] In late November, however, another complaint was filed over bad smells. [http://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/news/state/16029275.htm] This complaint was closed on January 11th of 2007 with no fines assessed. [ [http://www.dnr.mo.gov/newsrel/nr07_012.htm News Release 012 - MoDNR ] ]
tatus as of August 2008
A May 2003 article in Discover magazine stated, "Appel has lined up federal grant money to help build demonstration plants to process chicken offal and manure in Alabama and crop residuals and grease in Nevada. Also in the works are plants to process turkey waste and manure in Colorado and pork and cheese waste in Italy. He says the first generation of depolymerization centers will be up and running in 2005. By then it should be clear whether the technology is as miraculous as its backers claim." [ [http://discovermagazine.com/2003/may/featoil/ Anything Into Oil.] Discover magazine]
However, as of August 2008, the only operational plant listed at the company's website is the initial one in Carthage, Missouri. [ [http://www.changingworldtech.com/where/index.asp www.changingworldtech.com] ]
Changing World Technology applied for an IPO on 12 Aug 2008, hoping to raise $100 million. [ [http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10017027-54.html?tag=nefd.top] ]
Plasma Converters use powerful electric arcs to reduce and extract energy from waste.
* Brad Lemley (May 2003). [http://www.discovermagazine.com/issues/may-03/features/featoil/ Anything Into Oil.] "Discover".
* Brad Lemley (July 2004). [http://www.discovermagazine.com/issues/jul-04/features/anything-into-oil/ Anything Into Oil. (Update)] "Discover".
* Brad Lemley (April 2006). [http://www.discovermagazine.com/issues/apr-06/features/anything-oil/ Anything Into Oil. (Further Update)] "Discover".
* Yuanhui Zhang, Ph.D., P.E. (PI), Gerald Riskowski, Ph.D., P.E., Ted Funk, Ph.D., P.E. (1999). [http://www.age.uiuc.edu/bee/RESEARCH/tcc/tccpaper3.htm Thermochemical Conversion of Swine Manure to Produce Fuel and Reduce Waste.] University of Illinois.
* Stefan Lovgren (
July 2, 2004) [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0701_040702_pigoil.html Pig Manure Converted to Crude Oil] "National Geographic News" write up about the above paper.
* Andrew Kantor (
January 22, 2004). [http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/andrewkantor/2004-01-22-kantor_x.htm CyberSpeak: Killing germs, reducing waste, making oil.] "USA Today".
* Theo Asir (
December 1, 2003). [http://home.everestkc.net/tasir/CWT/Depolymerization.htm Depolymerization Field Observation Report (observation of Carthage, Missouri plant).]
* Mark Kawar (
May 9, 2003). From trash to black gold. "Omaha World Herald".
* Res-Energy (Accessed 2004). [http://res-energy.com/press/pdf/RES%20Plant%20Daily%20Output.pdf RES Plant Daily Output (PDF, 32.5kb).] Renewable Environmental Solutions.
* [http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2005/02/01/8250633/index.htm Fortune Magazine Article] (February 2005) update on the Changing World Technologies plant.
* [http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/11370598.htm Innovative turkey-to-oil plant eats money, spits out fowl odor] , By Karen Dillon, Kansas City Star, 4/12/05. (fee required for archived material)
* [http://www.changingworldtech.com/ Changing World Technologies]
* [http://www.res-energy.com/ Renewable Environmental Solutions]
* [http://forums.biodieselnow.com/forums/1/36038/ShowThread.aspx Discussion of various aspects, including energy efficiency]
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