garbage in, snake oil out?

This sounds like bullshit to me, but the article says they've actually built the plant already...

Anything into Oil: Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year

[...] Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.

[...] Today, here at the plant at Philadelphia's Naval Business Center, the experimental feedstock is turkey processing-plant waste: feathers, bones, skin, blood, fat, guts. A forklift dumps 1,400 pounds of the nasty stuff into the machine's first stage, a 350-horsepower grinder that masticates it into gray brown slurry. From there it flows into a series of tanks and pipes, which hum and hiss as they heat, digest, and break down the mixture. Two hours later, a white-jacketed technician turns a spigot. Out pours a honey-colored fluid, steaming a bit in the cold warehouse as it fills a glass beaker.

It really is a lovely oil. "The longest carbon chains are C-18 or so," says Appel, admiring the liquid. "That's a very light oil. It is essentially the same as a mix of half fuel oil, half gasoline."

[...] And it will be profitable, promises Appel. "We've done so much testing in Philadelphia, we already know the costs," he says. "This is our first-out plant, and we estimate we'll make oil at $15 a barrel. In three to five years, we'll drop that to $10, the same as a medium-size oil exploration and production company. And it will get cheaper from there."

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9 Responses:

  1. dormando says:

    This isn't cool until I can shit in my gas tank and drive to work.

  2. cnoocy says:

    I like that the graphic makes it look like a city improvement from Civ.

  3. denshi says:

    The polymer chemistry is relatively well known, but this bit raised a huge red flag for me:

    Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC-the stuff of house siding, wallpapers, and plastic pipes-yields hydrochloric acid, a relatively benign and industrially valuable chemical used to make cleaners and solvents. "That's what's so great about making water a friend," says Appel. "The hydrogen in water combines with the chlorine in PVC to make it safe. If you burn PVC [in a municipal-waste incinerator], you get dioxin-very toxic."

    Ummm... what? The conversion from ionic chlorine (as in HCl) to covalent (as in PVC) is crazy expensive; the conversion back is apparently difficult enough to have sponsored a whole industry for chlorinated waste disposal; but we should have just boiled it in water? Jarring..

  4. jwilkins says:

    There was also some guy doing something similar with a giant centrifuge. Sorry, the URL escapes me.

  5. naturalborn says:

    The article didn't link to their home page.

    Claiming 85 percent efficiency for such an inherently messy process seriously sets of my bullshit meters. Even transformers only get 90%.

  6. stonemonkey says:

    Those guys with the wood-chipper could get top dollar if they load up their chipped chickens and drive down to this place.

    I hope the place is not in an urban area....P-U.

  7. jcurious says:

    I belive macromedia owns a patent on stage three ;)