How Royal Dutch Shell and Other Companies Are Trying to Make Petroleum Products from Municipal Waste
by Hari Pulakkat (Times of India/The Economic Times) … Among the most advanced of the lot is Royal Dutch Shell, whose R&D centre in Bengaluru is now trying to scale up a process – called IH – to make petroleum products from agricultural or municipal waste. Shell has proven the technology in its laboratory, using a waste mixture that can even contain some amount of plastics. By mid-2017, Shell expects to operate a five-tonne-a-day pilot plant to convert waste into fuel.
Shell’s plant, if successful, could one day kill two birds at one stroke, and solve the problem of waste in large cities at least partially. Several companies around the world are working on waste-to-fuel technologies, and Shell’s method appears to be particularly suited to Indian waste. “It looks like a disruptive technology,” says RA Mashelkar, chemical engineer and National Research Professor.
Shell’s innovation is a catalyst that can, when combined with hydrogen at high temperatures, break complex molecules in bio-waste into those present in hydrocarbon fuels like petrol and diesel. Since the conversion is done at high temperatures, the quality of fuel is not affected by the presence of plastics up to 8 per cent of the waste. Moreover, the residue can be put back into the soil under certain conditions.
Farmers often burn the crop residue to prepare the field for the next sowing, but this burning creates dangerous pollutants like benzene that are carcinogenic. The crop residue can become a feedstock for an IH plant, provided too much energy is not spent in transporting it.
Food waste is another feedstock to the plant. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates that one-third of the food in the world is wasted. In India, the waste runs up to 50 per cent of the food produced. … READ MORE