Monday, January 30, 2012

Paul Wiseman features JBI's revolutionery technology

Canadian company turns waste plastic into ultra-low-sulphur fuel

By Paul Wiseman
Special to the Oil Report

Over a 10-year period running through the mid-1990s, Canadian entrepreneur John Bordynuik saw the beverage industry switch from glass to non-biodegradable plastic bottles. He saw those bottles littering roads and filling solid waste facilities. He also saw the world’s increasing appetite for fuel, along with concerns about air quality.

Now he is convinced he has found a way to make inroads in all three categories by recycling waste plastic into ultra-low-sulphur fuels and carbon black while creating virtually no emissions.

The process, called Plastic2Oil®, currently uses post-industrial plastic to make a variety of mid-grade fuels, including diesel and heating oil, along with petcoke, also known as carbon black. Basically, the process involves heating the waste plastic in a gas-fired plant to break that plastic down into fuel. Approximately 10-12 percent of the output is in the form of butane, propane and hydrogen, which are used to fuel the fires that make the process work. The plant needs city-supplied natural gas only to start. “I start on natural gas for about the first four hours, then we cut over to our gas,” said Bordynuik. After it reaches a certain temperature, the off-gassed butane and propane are enough to run the plant. Another 1-3 percent is petcoke and the rest is fuel that is basically usable without further processing, Bordynuik stated.

Bordynuik’s company, JBI Inc., made the first processor in 2009.“We got a one-kilogram reactor that was making what I would call a‘spec fuel’ at that time,” he recalled. “That was pretty exciting for us because there had been a lot of attempts to change plastic into some kind of product.” To get a usable form of fuel from it was particularly exciting from a marketing perspective.

“We evolved from a one-kg plant in 2009 to a fully commercial plant now, with permits, and over that time we increased from 1 kg every couple of hours to one ton to 20 tons per day and now to 4,000 pounds per hour in our latest plant, with no emissions,” he continued. This is the equivalent of 100 bbl/day of fuel output. Each pound of fuel contains approximately 10,000 BTUs of energy.

There are so few emissions, said Bordynuik, that plant permitting has been very simple in New York and other places where plants have been installed. In one test, the emissions were found to be cleaner than the air inside the plant. Emissions were tested at 13 ppm NOX, which he called “very, very low” and “basically no carbon dioxide, very little VOCs (volatile organic compounds).” He added that his plant’s emissions are typically about one-fifth those of a standard natural gas furnace.

Permitting is further simplified by the fact that the Plastic2Oil plants operate at atmospheric pressure, making blowouts highly unlikely.

JBI currently has contracts with plastics companies to receive their waste, and with trucking firms and fuel companies to buy the produced fuel. Waste plastic comes to JBI at no cost, which is still a bargain to suppliers because they avoid paying the landfill fees that would otherwise be required. Eventually the company wants to also take post-consumer waste but Bordynuik first sees a huge potential supply of the post-industrial variety.

He notes that the EPA estimates post-consumer waste to be 30 million tons per year. Although there are no estimates on industrial waste plastics, Bordynuik believes it is much higher.

RockTenn, a Georgia-based industrial packaging company that has one of the Plastic2Oil plants on its property, “has enough (waste plastic) to supply us for a long time” at JBI’s current rate of growth. “We also have a plant in Niagara Falls, NY, which is not on RockTenn property,” where, Bordynuik stated, “we bring our own plastic in.” Much of that comes from a nearby meat packing plant, which is one of the largest in the United States.

Each plant is owned and operated by JBI, with just two or three employees required for monitoring of the mostly automated equipment and to fill the inlet hopper with plastic. The plant is 10 feet wide and 120 long.

The process is able to use most plastic as feedstock, with PVC being a major exception because of its low BTU content. Also, the presence of chlorine makes it difficult to maintain the near-zero production emissions goal.

It is not an accident that the Plastic2Oil process is so clean. Bordynuik stated his goal in having it created was to do so with no trade-off-being environmentally sound in just one or two aspects.

Rather than expand too quickly and risk being buried by a resulting mountain of debt, JBI has adopted a pay-as-you-go philosophy other than selling stock. “We are not funded by investment banks,” he asserted. “We want to grow strategically, taking the lowest hanging fruit first.”

JBI has no plants in Texas currently, but RockTenn has some locations in the state, and JBI’s vice president of blending is from Texas, so Bordynuik said he feels his company is likely to establish a footprint in the state before long.

Given the large amount of waste plastic generated by both industry and consumers, Bordynuik believes his process eventually could make a difference in U.S. oil imports. Plus, it could significantly change landfill usage for the better.

Paul Wiseman can be reached at

On the Web: JBI’s very informative website is

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