Companies are searching for new sources of green energy as the renewables sector grows, and under-exploited resources continue to be found in surprising places. One such resource lies in scrap vehicle tyres. With a calorific value equivalent to high-quality coal, and their rubber content providing an excellent source of biomass energy, interest in scrap tyres’ potential as a fuel source is growing.
Capable of being converted into several different fuels, including gas, oil and solid residue (char), the 46 million or 440,000 tonnes of car, van and truck tyres scrapped each year represent a huge source of energy. Attempting to diversify into new hybrid Energy from Waste (EfW) technologies, FuturEnergy Ltd sensed an opportunity to take widely available commercial waste and put it to work by turning it into Tyre-Derived Fuel (TDF).
Founded in 2005 and based in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, FuturEnergy Ltd is recognised as one of the UK’s leading turbine manufacturers and are specialists in the design, production and distribution of clean technology and renewable energy. Their current product range includes cutting-edge horizontal-axis upwind turbines as well as sophisticated performance and protective monitoring systems for turbine installations.
Despite being highly skilled mechanical engineers, Energy-from-Waste (EfW) is a new market for FuturEnergy Ltd and additional expertise in chemical engineering was called for. This is due to the special type of thermal conversion required to process scrap tyres, a process known as pyrolysis, where biomass is heated in an oxygen-free atmosphere.
- Bespoke Guidance from EBRI
EBRI helped FuturEnergy to provide customised support and technical guidance to one of its key clients, WET (Waste to Energy Technology Ltd), based in Warwickshire.
The EBRI team conducted an in-depth technical review of WET’s and FuturEnergy’s process design for scrap tyre pyrolysis. The operational WET installation, based near Stratford-upon-Avon, uses a combination of proprietary techniques and equipment.
A detailed report was provided by EBRI, which included recommendations on enhancing the design to improve efficiency and the quality of the fuel’s final composition. EBRI also provided sample analysis of waste tyre material, as well as analyses of the oil, charcoal, and gas obtained following the plant’s initial attempts at pyrolysis.
- Findings and Recommendations
The oil, gas and charcoal produced from scrap tyre pyrolysis have a number of potential uses and markets. For instance, the liquid produced can be used as binding material for bitumen. It also contains high-value chemicals, such as limonene, which can be used in the production of industrial solvents, resins, adhesives, as well as a fragrance for cleaning products. Other chemicals identified in the oil can be used for the production of synthetic rubber or gasoline fuel.
The charcoal, known as ‘char’, can act as a filler for wastewater treatment or as a binder for coke manufacturing. Pyrolysis can also convert tyres into a synthesis gas, known as ‘syngas’, depending on its composition and heating value. This can be used for the production of heat and electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and other synthetic fuels.
The bespoke EBRI report concluded that further tests be conducted at the WET plant to enhance the quality of the products produced. WET and FuturEnergy have since taken this feedback on board and entered a new period of development.
EBRI’s recommended design enhancements, general advice, and scientific analysis have all combined to help the business explore its processing capabilities and how they can be used more effectively for processing tyres and other waste streams, including plastics.
More information on our research is available on PURE: https://research.aston.ac.uk/en/organisations/energy-and-bioproducts-research-institute-ebri
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Energy and Bioproducts Research institute (EBRI)
We welcome collaboration opportunities with academia, government bodies and industry from around the world. More information on current and completed projects is available at the Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) website.
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