By Guest Blog Author Gina Frierson
Engineers for Sustainable Energy Solutions (ESES) has launched our first international partnership to produce Plastic Derived Fuel Oil (PDFO) from plastic waste. This project is part of a partnership between ESES and the Dakar American University of Science and Technology (DAUST) in Senegal to help turn plastic into fuel. Dr. Baye Ndiogou and his students have been working with the ESES Trash-to-Tank processor since receiving it earlier this year. Dr. Ndiogou and his team have since set up and started experimenting with the process to find the best temperature, and even what kind of plastic to use for the purpose of developing the process to create useable fuel down the road.
The results of the test runs at DAUST are as follows:
For the initial runs, the main goal was to find the right kind of plastic to put into the processor to create the fuel. The DAUST team chose HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) plastic, and began by cutting it into smaller pieces after properly setting up the processor. After the completion of the initial setup, the students noticed a leak coming from the condenser outlet while filling it with water which caused them to refill the condenser regularly.
The DAUST team ran into another challenge when realizing that not all of the vapor was being condensed into liquid fuel. To help fix this problem they started by reducing the voltage which would cause the temperature to be reduced but not reach the operating temperature of 300⁰C. These initial runs led to two conclusions: First, the process was heating too quickly; and second that the water in the condenser was not cold enough.
With the second test, the DAUST team started to gradually increase the temperature of the tank to help the water inside of the condenser stay as cold as possible. After an hour and 30 minutes, they were able to reach a temperature of about 250⁰C and began to add ice to the condenser. Fuel started coming out of the processor when the temperature reached 370⁰C. This allowed them to collect on average 800 mL of fuel, but the team plans more analysis on the fuel to ensure that the composition is correct for PDFO.
These initial results are exciting. They represent the first time that an ESES processor has been operated independently by and international team. The long-term goal of this project is to use the Trash-to-Tank processor to demonstrate the technology on the DAUST campus so that community members, government ministers and other NGOs can see the process and learn how plastic waste can be a viable source of fuel oil. ESES and DAUST hope to see this technology in use throughout Senegal.
About the Author: Gina Frierson is an undergraduate student in Chemical Engineering at the University of Houston in the United States. Gina serves as an Ambassador for Engineers for Sustainable Energy Solutions.