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Anything Into Oil


By Roger Fritz

I read an article recently that made me laugh out loud, and I just gotta share it. To really enjoy it, I advise getting the magazine and reading it for yourself. It's on page 50 of the May issue of Discover Magazine, 2003. It's called Anything Into Oil.
A guy named Baskis has invented something he calls the Thermal Depolymerization Process. TDP for short.
It works like this. In one end you put almost any waste product imaginable (turkey guts, tires, plastic bottles, muck dredged from harbors, garbage, old computers, cornstalks, paper pulp, medical waste, sewage, you name it) and out the other end come three products: high quality oil, clean burning gas, and powdered minerals that can be used to manufacure other things. A 175 pound man would produce 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, 7 pounds of minerals and 123 pounds of purified water.
Toxic waste problems could become history, as will perhaps importing oil.
Many scientists have tried to do this before, but it always took more heat to convert the solids to liquid fuel and drive off the water than came out the end. What Baskis invented is a way to do it that's 85% efficient. It starts with a pressure tank 20 feet long. The gunk is cooked at 500 degrees and 600 pounds pressure for 15 minutes. Then the tank is rapidly depressurized, and that releases 90% of the water, which is used to heat the incoming stream. The minerals settle out and are shunted to storage tanks.
Next the slurry goes into a second stage reactor. It's heated to 900 degrees, and the hot vapors flow up vertical distillation columns. It condenses, and different products flow out at different levels. From the top comes gas, from the middle comes oil, and water and powdered carbon come from the bottom. The gas is used to heat the slurry, and the rest is sold.
Nothing hazardous comes out the end. The EPA doesn't even consider the process as waste handling. The plants are licensed as manufacturing plants. There's a pilot plant in Philadelphia that handles seven tons of waste a day, and there's a plant in Missouri that's going online. It will handle 200 tons of turkey waste every day. Plants are being built in Colorado, Nevada, Alabama and Italy.
The process is scaleable, so plants can be made of any size. You could have a little one in your home. It won't be long before there are plants of every size all over the world. Is that cool or what?

Update from Discover, April 2006: A guy named Brian Appel is the CEO of a company called Changing World Technologies. It's built a $42 million plant in Carthage, Missouri, that produces 1500 barrels of oil a day from 270 tons of turkey waste and 20 tons of pig fat.
The process they're using is the only practical large-scale way of detoxifying prions, which cause Mad Cow Disease. Consequently Europe is more interested in this process than America. As America has crawled towards making its food supply safer, Europe has sprinted. Projects are planned in Wales, Ireland, England and Germany.

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