Breakthrough Green ELTs Process
Disposing of end-of-life tyres (ELT), which are estimated to take 500 years to breakdown, is a major environment and public health problem. There is a limit to the use of recycled crumb tyre rubber that could be used in play grounds, asphalt roads and race car crash barriers.
With an estimated 1.5 billion ELT discarded annually world-wide, burning in furnace, grinding into crumbs and landfill burial are no solution. It was amid this concern did Denis Randall took up research to come up with a patented top-secret process for the Australian recycling company Green Distillation Technologies (GDT) where he is the Chief Technology Officer. His 35 years of hard work is paying in the form of commissioning of a processing plant near Warren in western New South Wales. It can process 19,300 tonnes of tyres, which is equivalent to about 658,000 tyres per year.
In an interview to Tyre Asia GDT’s Chief Operating Officer Trevor Bayley said so far there have been no way to economically and effectively recycle ELTs. The GDT process, which is a world-first technology called ‘destructive distillation’, is capable of converting tyres back into high-quality in-demand oil, carbon and steel. It is capable of 100 per cent recycling without creating any emission problem.
He said a 10 kg car tyre yields four litres of oil, four kgs of carbon and two kgs of steel while a four- tonne oversized dump truck tyre will yield 1500 litres of oil, 1.6 tonnes of carbon and 0.8 tonnes of steel.
The destructive distillation process begins by loading whole tyres into a process chamber and then heated to break them into different compounds under a process that is entirely emission free. The bio-crude oil that is extracted is similar to diesel. The Queensland University of Technology has found it to be useful in blending with fossil fuel. This can be used for heating and after further refinement it is useful for automotive and aviation jet fuel and other oil derived products.
The carbon can be used for developing carbon black, which is in high demand from the tyre industry. It can be used for a variety of other purposes from plastics and paints, to water filtration, printers ink, , electrodes, grapheme, toothpaste and cosmetics, including eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, eye shadows, blushes, rouge and lipstick.
The success of this technology is attracting investor interest to start similar plants in the UK, US, Japan, Thailand, Russia, Chile, Argentine, South Africa.
Explaining the uniqueness of ‘destructive distillation’, Bayley said that there are many aspects that make this technology standout. It has zero waste from the process. Everything that goes in is accounted for on the way out.
“There are many aspects of our process that are unique and all are integral to our know-how and Intellectual Property. This is evident when compared to pyrolysis in terms of emissions. The oil we produce, for example, is stable, has a high flash point, and zero oxygen. We have samples that go back to our first runs nine years ago that are still stable with no separation.”
Commenting on the cost-effectiveness of the process, he explained that one could expect solid returns on investment. “The financial models predict a highly cost-effective process with solid returns, even if there were a significant fall in the world oil price.”
About the capital investment and the cost to set up a plant that can process 500,000 ELT, Bailey said that in Australia, GDT’s standard plant operates 24/7 processing 19,300 tonnes of whole tyres per year. “This is a mix of 658,000 car and truck tyres per year, to yield approximately 8 million litres of oil, 7,700 tonnes of carbon and 2,000 tonnes of steel.”
The capital cost of such a plant in Australia is in the region of A$10m. These capacity figures only relate to Australia as he cannot extrapolate these to other countries until he knows the mix of tyres. He could discuss the process internationally in terms of weight rather than in terms of number of ELTs.
He emphasised that the disposal of ELTs in an environmentally compatible way is a global issue and one needs to respond globally. “To date, we have secured a great deal of international interest with recent visitors to our plant from Japan, the Middle East, USA, the UK and New Zealand.”
Bayley said that there has been very little interest from India or China where the environmental laws are not so severe and where pyrolysis is an option, despite its high emissions and the poor quality of oil and carbon produced by other local processes.
About the market potential of carbon generated from the plant and its use in the tyre industry, Bayley has some explanations to offer. “To call it carbon black is a little misleading and some have started calling it Recovered Carbon Black.”
The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials but it now has a global focus) has taken to using the name rCB but that is also a little misleading. The carbon product is a mix of the original carbon black from the tyre and carbon resulting from the process.
Summary Breakthrough Green ELTs Process