Polyflow LLC has changed its name to Renewable Energy Solutions by Polyflow, or RES Polyflow, as the commercialization of its waste-to-energy process moves closer to reality.
“Our first production-scale plant will be coming on line later this year in the fourth quarter” in Perry, Ohio, with the capacity to turn 5,000 pounds of mixed plastics waste per hour into fuel, said Michael Dungan, RES Polyflow sales and marketing director, in a July 30 telephone interview.
“We will run the plant. It is designed to run at full speed from day one. It will be a showcase unit to market to potential buyers.”
RES Polyflow will remain in Akron, Ohio, and will have the same management team, including CEO Jay Schabel. The name change coincides with the announcement July 30 that private equity firm Ambassador Enterprises LLC in Fort Wayne, Ind., has become an investor in RES Polyflow. “They helped us secure the $1.6 million in matching funds” required by a state of Ohio grant the firm received in April 2011, said Dungan.
“Capital is king,” he said.
The partnership with Ambassador Enterprises “gives us the opportunity to take our commercialization strategy across the United States and abroad.”
“Our goal is to be the worldwide standard for profitable energy recovery from plastic waste,” Schabel said in announcing the name change and partnership with Ambassador Enterprises.
The patented RES Polyflow process converts mixed and unwashed plastic waste — as well as tires and carpet — into transportation fuels, octane enhancers and chemical intermediates used in the production of new plastic and rubber.
RES Polyflow hopes to establish independently operated energy-recovery facilities, and also to sell licensed equipment to energy-park developers, recyclers, landfill operators and organizations that manage large waste streams of plastics.
“It is a unique route to convert mixed polymers and biopolymers waste into intermediates through pyrolysis,” said Joe Hensel, the founder and ex-CEO of Polyflow. Hensel is now CEO of Akron, Ohio-based AvMat LLC, which helps inventors, entrepreneurs and companies with product commercialization, market introduction, sales growth and early-stage financing.
The Polyflow process “creates value in products that previously weren't being recycled,” Hensel said at the mid-June Bioplastics conference in San Francisco, which was organized by InnoPlast Solutions Inc.
“There is a $35.4 billion untapped opportunity [just in the United States] to harvest the polymer waste stream as a feedstock that can replace oil” for fuels and chemical intermediates, he said. Currently 9.4 percent of all oil consumed in the U.S. is used to manufacture plastics and rubber, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Waste plastics are a feedstock that have been overlooked, are available locally and are available in excess,” Hensel said, pointing out that nearly 93 percent of plastics end up in landfills, according to a 2010 EPA report on waste.
The RES Polyflow pyrolysis process does not require a catalyst, operates at low temperatures, uses 82 percent less carbon dioxide than incineration, and has low water content, so the drying costs are low, he said.
“It produces a low-oxygen hydrocarbon with a high-energy contact,” he said. “It uses mixed and dirty plastics and offers a valuable, sustainable end-of-life solution for polymer products.”
In the last four years, the firm has processed 16,000 pounds of mixed and dirty plastic waste and produced 1,600 gallons of chemicals at its pilot plant in Akron.
The first production-scale plant is currently under construction in Perry at a cost of $4 million, Hensel said. The plant has been designed and is being built by engineering and architectural firm Chemstress Consultant Co. of Akron, in conjunction with washing systems equipment maker Niagara Systems LLC of Perry.
“We expect it to be turned on sometime this year,” Hensel said. “It will run continuously in a demonstration mode for a few months to demonstrate continuous process reliability.
“We plan to use this operation as the template for expansion to future local, municipal and regional plants,” said Hensel. He said he expects a typical production plant to produce 30 million gallons of pyrolysis gas annually.
Like the pilot plant, the first production-scale plant will be capable of turning everything from plastic paint pails, e-waste, dirty agricultural film, hoses, sheet film, flexible packaging with aluminum flashing and miscellaneous plastics with the resin identification code of No. 7 into fuels and chemical intermediates, he said.
“We can create chemical intermediates and transportation fuels, and those separated streams can be sold locally,” where they are produced, Hensel said.
“It truly is a low-cost feedstock. It uses all polymer wastes without sorting and tolerates substantial inert materials.”
According to Hensel, there is a 67-72 percent yield from standard plastic waste and a 78-83 percent yield from cleaner plastics, and 78 percent of the energy and more than 80 percent of the carbon in the waste plastics is recovered.
Each 100 tons of mixed polymer waste, he said, produces 69 tons of pyrolysis gas — that is, a naphtha-range product with a high aromatics content that can be used either for gasoline blending or as a feedstock for a BTX extraction unit, a process for removing benzene, toluene and xylene; 18 tons of non-condensible gas that can be used as process gas; and 13 tons of char.
Hensel said the 69 tons of pygas can be turned into 23 tons of gasoline blend stock, 22 tons of diesel fuel and 24 tons of chemical feedstock — which would be 4 tons of isoprene feedstock, 6 tons each of styrene, toluene and ethylbenzene, and 1 ton each of cumene and alpha-methylstyrene.
“The process is fully powered by its non-condensable off-gas,” he said, and the remaining char is both cleaner than coal ash and passes all federal tests for non-hazardous landfill waste. “Everything is separated out and scrubbed out before we burn the off-gas as fuel.”
Hensel said the pygas produced is lighter and sweeter than West Texas Intermediate crude oil, has no asphalts or tars, and is 50 percent naptha, 30 percent diesel kerosene and 20 percent vacuum gas oil.