CONVERSION OF POLYOLEFIN WASTE INTO FUELS AND OTHER VALUABLE PRODUCTS BY HYDROTHERMAL PROCESSING
thesisposted on 07.05.2021, 18:36 by Kai Jin
Plastic waste is accumulated in landfills and the environment at an exponentially increasing rate. Currently, about 350 million tons of plastic waste is generated annually while only 9% is recycled. Plastic waste and its degradation products, microplastics, pose a severe threat to the ecosystem and eventually human health. Polyolefin (Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP)) waste is 63% of the total plastic waste. Converting polyolefin waste into useful products including clean gasoline, diesel, wax, and monomers, via hydrothermal processing (HTP) can help reduce the plastic waste accumulation. In this study, sorted PE waste was converted via supercritical water liquefaction (SWL) into gasoline blendstock, No.1 ultra-low-sulfur diesel, and clean waxes with high yields and high purities. Comprehensive reaction pathways for PE conversion were proposed based on detailed GC×GC analyses. Furthermore, a new low-pressure (~2 MPa) hydrothermal processing (LP-HTP) method was developed to convert mixed polyolefin waste. This new LP-HTP method can save 90% of the capital cost and energy compared to SWL. The oil products were distilled into clean gasoline and No.1 ultra-low-sulfur diesel. The reaction pathways of PE and PP were independent while the synergistic effects improved the fuel qualities. With this LP-HTP method, polyolefin waste can be converted into up to 190 million tons of fuels globally, while 92% of the energy and 71% of the GHG emissions can be saved compared to conventional methods for producing fuels. Overall, this method is robust, flexible, energy-efficient, and environmental-friendly. It has a great potential for reducing the polyolefin waste accumulation in the environment and associated risks to human health.