'Thermal depolymerization' tech recycles stuff into minerals & useful oil?!

A very strange article about a machine that can take a wide variety of wastes, and efficiently break it down to isolate useful materials, and even create oil molecules... Sounds like a bit of a free lunch. Maybe it's fake. I don't know. The article from Discover magazine, two years ago, seems really friggin appealing but who knows....

The page that the story is posted on has a lengthy discussion of how this technology would not be a panacea, because plastics are horrible, etc etc. Good points. However, we still need to find a way to recover valuable wastes mixed into the consumer crap that's killing our society. Keep an eye on this one.

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

BRAD LEMLEY / Discover v.24, n.5, 1may03 [A Chemist's Comments on CWT]

[caption: Gory refuse, from a Butterball Turkey plant In Carthage, Missouri, will no longer go to waste.. Each day 200 tons of turkey offal will be carted to the first industrial-scale thermal depolymerIzatIon plant, recently completed In an adjacent lot, and be transformed Into various useful products, including 600 barrels of light oil.]

In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change almost anything into oil. Really.

"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first industrial-size installation in Missouri. "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming."

Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds too good to be true.

"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who has assembled a team of scientists, former government leaders, and deep-pocketed investors to develop and sell what he calls the thermal depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.

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.

See also Changing World Technologies, the company putting out this device.

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