The project we will highlight below foresees the implementation of a pyrolysis plant to transform tires and plastic waste into new raw materials such as petrochemicals, steel and gas, in a process without CO2 emission, using technology from Danish Tire2Oil. The expectation is to give a new destination to a material that can be polluting, transforming a liability that would be discarded into assets with various uses and, consequently, moving the economy in Brazil.
Learn more in our interview with Cauê Gonçalves, partner of the Brazilian company 3EEngenharia, which will implement the solution in Brazil with Tire2Oil.
1 - 3EEngenharia has a project with Danish company Tire2Oil to transform tires and plastic waste into new raw materials, such as petrochemical products, black carbon, steel and gas, without CO2 emission or waste. Could you explain how Low Carbon Brazil's partnership and importance in the project development process came about?
The partnership came from Low Carbon Brazil's process of Matchmaking between European and Brazilian companies in the first process of the initiative. The program was of total importance for this approach, which we understand would not be feasible without it. Besides the mutual interest of the companies and affinity of the segment, we understand that the maturation process developed with Low Carbon Brazil ensured the greatest credibility and solidity for the project to be structured.
2 - The National Tire Industry Association (ANIP) sold about 45 million new tires in 2016. Would you have any information about the current scenario of tire recycling in Brazil?
We have data not in sales volume but in total weighing of the national scenario. According to the 2018 Ibama tire report (Base 2017), we currently have an increase in tire sales, which today represents 839,000 tons of tires. Of these, we still have a deficit of 254 (30%) thousand tons of tires that are not being destined in a controlled way and may be absorbed by landfills or put the environment at risk. It is also worth noting that, according to the same report, 47% of the volume recycled (274,000 tons) is destined to the co-processing process normally for cement companies for heating processes.
We understand these processes are not environmentally correct because they only use tires as a form of heat without taking advantage of their derivatives, which are commodities of better value to the market, and also increase the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, when one could assess other alternatives of calorific power.
3 - Could you explain how pyrolysis technology will work and what would be the main advantages of using this technology for tire recycling? Do you have an estimate of its environmental impact, in the reduction of CO2 emissions, or other indicators of environmental impact, in the Brazilian scenario?
In a nutshell, it is a process that consists of fragmenting tires into small particles and starting a controlled heating process up to a temperature of 500 degrees in a closed circuit, to extract their derivatives from the tire's composition. In this heating process, derivatives pass from their solid state to the gaseous state in certain temperature ranges. The most volatile and calorific derivatives are directed by ducts for use as gas for heating and energy generation. Heavier derivatives that are obtained at higher temperatures are cooled down to their liquid form where the types of derived oils are separated by their density in decantation tanks. When reaching the temperature of 500 degrees what is left in the tanks are metals, destined to the recycling industry, and the black carbon that is reused for pigments or even additive for civil construction processes.
The main advantages of using this technology are the ecologically correct method, the destination of high volumes of tires, the reuse of petroleum derivatives in the production chain, avoiding the use of virgin petroleum material, a viable solution for maintenance and useful life of landfills and a more efficient alternative for the logistics of materials, since the plant can be installed in locations closer to the generators.
Currently, a single plant with its minimum production capacity can mitigate 50,000 tons of carbon equivalent per year. This demonstrates that the project is a very attractive and impactful CO2 mitigation process in national and state policies.
If we consider only tires, one plant has the capacity to absorb 16,000 tons of tires per year and allocate approximately 9,000 tons of petroleum-based oils to the production chain. If we consider Brazil's territorial extension and its current tire sales capacity, we have a potential market of 55 plants for current demand. Emphasizing the point that when we analyse these figures for the unserviceable plastics scenario, it is 9 times bigger than that of tires.
Well disseminated in Europe, we believe this technology is the next step in a national policy to change solid waste management and efficient ways to reuse resources. Given that our logistics alternatives in the country (road, water and railways) are limited and impacting costs, we believe these plants are coherent alternatives for a better waste logistics and for the diffusion of distributed supply that facilitates the local supply of recyclable inputs.
In addition to these impacts, we believe this can be a viable and coherent alternative for socialization and improving the quality of life for waste pickers, creating a means of resignifying the occupancy and leaving informality behind.
4 - What is the project's target audience? Do you already have mapped customers? Have you already sold the technology to any customer in Brazil?
Our target audience is made up of landfills, voluntary waste delivery programs, waste collections from private companies (malls, restaurants, supermarkets and industries), gas stations, oil change workshops and city halls in their recycling policies.
We already have interests in the destination of six municipalities. Recently, we closed a partnership with a landfill that will dispose of 100% of its plastic waste, tires and oils that currently, according to its gravimeter, represents 180% of the maximum production capacity of the plant, which makes it totally viable and with the potential to create a second unit. As soon as the unit is installed, it will be registered with Reciclanip for the destination of tires to be part of their distribution channel.
We have initiated contact with some refineries that have shown interest in the products, as well as some paint companies that are interested in starting tests with plastic-derived oils for the formulation of their products. In addition to these, we have with our European partner the public manifestation of European companies to receive our entire productive capacity of fuel oils. Even with this scenario, as soon as we start the operation of the plant, we will develop a chain of customers for destination, enabling the creation of a national destination channel for all plants we intend to develop in the country.
We have initiated contacts with banks, investment funds and private investors to raise financial resources to make the first unit in Brazil viable. From this first plant, we will start a process of expansion of more units in the national territory through our own plants or even with partners or customers who want to invest on technology for waste disposal.
5 - The pyrolysis module for tire recycling would have the capacity to process 5,000 tons of tires per year in the northeast region. Do you believe the model would be replicable in other regions of the country? Are there plans for regional expansion in other Latin American countries. If so, which ones?
Each unit has a daily processing capacity of 25 to 50 tons of material. We expect to work 330 days a year, with separate deadlines for maintenance, repairs and improvements. With this we have an annual capacity to process between 8.2 and 16.5 thousand tons of materials.
3E's interest in this project is precisely because we glimpse its great replicability capacity for the entire national territory and because it is an eminent need in the country, as we can see in our performance in projects for Voluntary Waste Collection Stations.
We intend to start in the Northeast region due to its characteristic of a more stable climate throughout the year and a lower concentration of alternatives for disposal, which ensures a control of operating costs and a higher demand for disposal. However, we observe that it is feasible in other regions with different climates because it is currently functional in Denmark, which reaches temperatures of -5°C in winter and 25°C in summer, without affecting continuous operation.
We are interested in expanding by creating units throughout the country, which currently has a market potential of 200 units. However, we understand that since this is a new technology not yet seen in operation in Brazil, this first unit needs more effort to capture investments and will consequently serve as a model for the other plants and the attraction of investors from other units throughout Brazil.
6 - What could the gas obtained after the pyrolysis process be used for?
The gas obtained has calorific power to be used mainly in its burning, in this sense we have an infinity of applications for the most diverse segments. Below we list some of the applications for some market segments:
In the industry, water heating, acclimatization and furnace heating; in the energy segment, local energy generation (Continuous Generation), generation on demand, storage and destination to energy generation poles; in the agricultural segment, environment acclimatization, energy generation on demand, energy backup and heat source systems for water heating; in the commercial segment, Micro and Mini Generation distributed as an alternative for renewable energy.
7 - What could be done with the materials obtained through the process? Would they be reused by the customer himself?
Because they are complex products, which involve mixture of materials, they generate several types of derived materials. We can list some of them and their destinations being:
In the case of plastic oils, raw material can be generated for percentage of composition of new plastics, base material for paint production, base material for solvent production and base material for waterproofing. Petroleum oils can be used for refining to compose Diesel oil, refining to compose kerosene and refining to compose gasoline. On the other hand, lubricating oils and vegetable oils can be used for purification of oils for reuse, as well as the extraction of impurities and contaminants.
Fuel Gas, in turn, can be used for heating and power generation. Metals, in the recycling industry for foundry and reuse of metals. Black carbon, on the other hand, can be applied as an asphalt construction pigment, plastics and paints and also used as a base material for the ecological asphalt composition.
In the extraction process of derivatives, we understand the feedback would come through industries for a collective benefit in the productive chain of recycling and reuse. In the case of lubricating oils, we understand this would be a product that would return directly to the production chain of the customer himself.
8 - Could you tell us what would be the estimated investment in the technology for the final customer?
The investment for the implementation of a pyrolysis plant is 12.7 million reais. Due to 3E's knowledge and performance in the segment of recycling and management of computerized recycling programs, we are raising investors to make the plant in which we would be the operators financially viable. From this first unit we will start the expansion process of our own units and partnership models for new plants as "franchise". Since this is a technology and a market that needs to be introduced, we understand that only direct sales without support to partners would not make the sustainability of the business viable, in addition to being a means of guaranteeing destination channels and negotiations in scale for receiving and disposing of recycling plants.