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While researchers are grappling with the problems of disposal of end-of-life tyres, an Australian recycler is taking pains to explain to potential investors that its ‘top secret process’ is different from conventional pyrolysis. Chief Operating Officer of Green Distillation Technologies Trevor Bayley says its process is a world’s first and describes it as ‘destructive distillation’. Amid its plans to set up similar processing facilities in other parts of the world, he explains the advantages of its unique process which took 35 years to develop into a commercially feasible project

An Australian tyre recycler, which invented what it termed as a secret process named ‘destructive distillation’ is seeking to remove doubts among investors that that the technology it developed after three decades of R&D is quite different from conventional pyrolysis to dispose end-of-life tyres.

Green Distillation Technologies (GDT)’ Chief Technology Officer Denis Randall says its process facilitates better environment-friendly disposal of end-of-life tyres in a most cost-effective way.

The GDT’s process has evinced interest among prospective investors worldwide and the company is engaged in clearing confusion with regard to its technology as it is different from pyrolysis.

Dr Randall’s process, which breaks down the tyre, leaves oil, carbon and steel and it does not produce any emission. As GDT embarks on setting up processing facilities in other parts of the world, it wants to remove some confusions arising with regard to the process.

GDT’s Chief Operating Officer Trevor Bayley says there are significant differences between what they do and what most people understand pyrolysis to be.

Pyrolysis is a generic term used to describe a process that is defined as thermal decomposition of a substance in an inert atmosphere. In Europe and the United States, the pyrolysis process – despite refinements to reduce greenhouse gases – still could not address all environment issues while producing tyre-derived oil that is used as an oil or coal replacement.

But the GDT process is developed from basic chemistry after experimentation by Randal into organic waste streams. The expertise is in knowing how to get the chemical reaction to occur.

“We consider this to be the final step in the evolution of these tyre recycling processes and we call it ‘destructive distillation’ which overcomes the earlier inherent problems. It produces high-quality saleable oil, carbon and steel,” GDT said in a clarificatory statement.

“Although what we do has some superficial similarities with pyrolysis, there are significant differences in the heat management and control systems and in the destruction and reformation of the molecular structure of the tyre which delivers both process and product improvements,” it said.

“This occurs through a carefully managed and sophisticated system at significantly lower temperatures than the typical pyrolysis process and delivers multiple benefits, including using less heat which means less energy, reducing the processing cost, as well as using whole tyres as feedstock meaning no pre-processing and eliminating the cost of shredding.”

Molecular level

GDT explains that there is no waste after the process as everything that goes in comes out. The oil that is produced is of high quality in the distillate range and is easy to refine.

The carbon is also of high quality and it is readily usable in other manufacturing processes. The steel tyre bead and reinforcing materials can go back to the tyre manufacturer or go to scrap.

”It is our firm belief that our process will eventually become the accepted means of recycling end-of-life tyres around the world and rank it with the great Australian inventions that have achieved international renown like the black box flight recorder, wi-fi and the bionic ear,“ Bayley said.

GDT’s claim is reinforced by research engineers at Queensland University of Technology who tested the oil from recycled tyres and found that when blended with diesel it gave fuel that reduced emissions with no loss of engine performance.

“Our process recovers 80 per cent of the energy contained in an end-of-life tyre with the remaining 20 per cent held in the steel bead and reinforcing which go for scrap or back to the tyre manufacturer for reuse,” Bayley said.

He said that heat is applied to the process chamber in a controlled manner which permits the reaction to occur. This reduces the rubber and other non-steel compounds in the tyre to their molecular state.

Some of these molecules inter-react and form new hydrocarbon compounds which are extracted as vapour and condensed into a ‘new’ crude oil.

Once all the susceptible molecules have recombined, the process ceases and the remaining carbon is extracted together with the steel skeleton of the tyre which is unchanged.

“There is no waste. Everything that goes in, comes out and a small amount of the recycled oil is used as the heat source,” he said.

GDT’s first Australian processing plant is in Western New South Wales, where
one module is operating. At full capacity with six modules and operating at 24/7, the plant will be capable of processing 19,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres per year, which represents approximately 3% of waste tyres generated in the country each year.

GDT plans to eventually establish seven processing plants in Australia to handle 25 million waste tyres.

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