Plastics to Diesel Conversion Plant Comes to Alberta

APRA welcomes new member Durham Energy Recovery Inc.

The Alberta Plastics Recycling Association (APRA) would like to welcome its newest member, Durham Energy Recovery Inc. (Durham) based in Airdrie, Alberta. The company is providing a unique solution to managing plastics waste, specializing in the energy recovery process by converting plastics into diesel fuel.

The plant, proposed to be built and operating by the spring of 2015 will take plastic, collected from municipalities and farm operations, among other sources and through a process called thermal degradation will convert the plastics into three products: diesel fuel, hydrocarbon gas and carbon black.  Transportation quality diesel fuel is 65 per cent of the bi-product of the process, while hydrocarbon gas will be used to fuel the plant and carbon black can be sold to road construction companies, tire and rubber pipe manufacturers.  It also has a good BTU value and could be used as a fuel source for industrial heaters or cement kilns.

“By using the hydrocarbon gas to fuel the plant, after the initial heating phase it will be a self-sustaining plant,” comments Peter Brown, the President of Durham Energy and thirty year veteran in the recycling industry. “It is environmentally friendly because it operates in an oxygen deprived environment so no combustion is used in the process, and there are no harmful emissions. Economically, there is a demand for all the bi-products which will be sold right here in Alberta.”

Peter mentions there is also a demand for increased support to manage plastics waste. Durham Energy is forming five year agreements with municipalities to take their plastics. Even after practicing the 4 Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle and recover there are still materials leftover that need to be disposed of. Landfills are running low on space and it costs some tax payers $100/ton to deposit garbage in the landfill. The alternate is to find another solution such as Durham Energy’s plant. The only cost to municipalities will be to transport the materials to the plant.

Peter adds that the plant, proposed to occupy five acres of land complete with a 20,000 square foot building and room for storing the plastics and tanks for storing the diesel, can convert up to 20,000 tonnes of plastic into approximately 20 to 26 million litres of diesel a year. That the equivalent liquid in 10 Olympic sized swimming pools.

“We have been overwhelmed with the supply of plastics and could easily collect enough to run several plants,” remarks Peter. “We are working with Alberta Care and Alberta Recycling Council members and plan to approach other groups such as the Alberta Used Oil Management Association (AUOMA) to collect plastics used in the oil industry as well as other types of plastics such as agricultural plastics.”

The plastic Durham has collected so far in their Airdrie yard.

The plastic Durham has collected so far in their Airdrie yard.

When recycling plastics it’s important to separate them by their given numbers because different plastics are chemically unique, respond to the heat and pressure of recycling in different ways and cannot be combined. One benefit of Durham’s process is that every type of plastic can be thrown into the mix. There are optimal combinations to produce the most and best quality diesel, though even if some contaminated items enter the system, such as dirt on agricultural plastic or food on consumer plastics, it won’t adversely affect the process.

So why, with all the positives to this process, such as creating needed diesel fuel, reducing pressure on the landfills by helping municipalities manage waste and creating jobs and economic development in the region, has this type of plant not been started before now?

“People’s perceptions of waste management and recycling have changed over the past few years,” comments Peter. “In general, people are taking more notice in recycling and landfill waste. If we take out plastics we save approximately 30 percent of space in the landfills. Additionally, it’s a good opportunity to produce diesel for the transportation industry because of the diesel shortages.”

Peter points out that the technology itself has been around since WWII when Germany used a similar process to generate fuel for tanks from wood and other products. The technology has evolved and undergone improvements since then. Other parts of the world are picking it up as well. There are around seven facilities in Japan. A pilot project in Ireland has led to a contract to build 38 more facilities around the U.K. No one else in Canada is pursuing this opportunity with plastics at the moment, though organizations in B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario have approached Peter to learn more.

Stay tuned to the APRA website for developments about Durham Energy Recovery’s ground breaking plant.

About Peter Brown: Peter is the President of Durham Energy Recovery Inc. (Durham) which was incorporated in January 2008. He has been in the recycling industry since 1985 when he started working for Hub Oil, recycling used oil. Over the years he’s worked for the City of Calgary at the Spyhill Landfill, Safety Kleen, one of the largest hazardous waste management companies and purchased Custom Reclamation Services (CRS) in 2008 under Durham to collect and recycle automotive, industrial and some oilfield waste. Durham sold CRS in June 2013 to focus solely on the plastics conversion project.

 

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