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AgroWaste Oil Plant Starts Production 730

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the texas-gold-from-cleveland-steamers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo, and others has a story about the first Waste-to-Oil plant going online, and selling the oil commercially. Using TCP (Thermal Conversion Process), the plant is producing 100-200 barrels of No. 4 oil a day, and has the capacity to produce up to 500 barrels per day. With the amount of agricultural waste in the U.S., and many more of these plants, we could possibly reduce our need for foreign oil."
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AgroWaste Oil Plant Starts Production

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  • New RFC? (Score:5, Funny)

    by John Hurliman (152784) on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:58AM (#9211985) Homepage
    Will a new RFC be coming out, for Oil over TCP?
    • Re:New RFC? (Score:5, Informative)

      by John Hurliman (152784) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:06AM (#9212038) Homepage
      BTW, 20,799 more of these plants all running at full capacity and we could satisfy our dependency on foreign oil (approx. 10.9 million barrels a day). Assuming there's that much waste to convert.
      • Re:New RFC? (Score:4, Funny)

        by kinnell (607819) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:49AM (#9212862)
        20,799 more of these plants all running at full capacity and we could satisfy our dependency on foreign oil

        But instead, you'd be dependant on foreign turkey supplies.

        • Re:New RFC? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tibor the Hun (143056)
          Your comment is funny, but one of the advantages of this process is that it can convert any organic waste (burned pizzas, mc donalds leftovers etc), not just turkey-guts. And since US wastes a lot of food daily, I think we could comfortably be supplying all the "fuel" for these plants.
        • Re:New RFC? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lommer (566164)
          Actually, America can never be free of foreign oil unless it uses alternative energy. I read a very interesting article in The Economist a while back title The Oil We Eat. I highly reccomend looking it up and reading it.

          In short it discussed how modern agricultural practices (i.e. fertilization, crop-spraying, tractors and whatnot) have come to the point where we actually expend ~5 calories of energy to produce every calorie of energy in our food. If you compare this with 20 years ago when the ratio was ab
      • Re:New RFC? (Score:5, Informative)

        by keraneuology (760918) on Friday May 21, 2004 @08:28AM (#9213776) Journal
        According to a post I found at http://forums.biodieselnow.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID= 829
        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.
        The trick is to feed all of those turkeys h erbal v 14 gr.a and give them all a freakishly large p 3.ni5 to increase the mass that goes into the machines, thereby increasing the output. But seriously, Circle Four farms in Utah claims on their website to have produced 1,000,000 market hogs in 2003 - http://www.c4farms.com/FAQ/FAQ.htm#market. A typical market hog can be expected to produce 2 tons of waste every year (large hog farms produce sewage waste in quantities similar to small-to-medium cities). 2,000,000 tons of manure would produce somewhere around 600,000 barrels of light oil/year. Granted, this isn't much (Saudia Arabia will shift their production by 1,000,000 barrels/day), but it would mean that this particular farm and many houses around it could be self-sufficient energy-wise, and they wouldn't need those massive lagoons of pig waste that occasionally break open and flood the neighborhood.
        • Re:New RFC? (Score:3, Informative)

          by TyrranzzX (617713)
          Interestingly enough, it'd be a quick n' easy way to get rid of lots and lots of dead bodies in a more useful way...just send all the "code red's" and "code yellows" ; aka terrorists, into these things...

          *shutter*

          Frankly, the proper way of reducing agri-waste isn't to throw it into a machine and make gas. The ground can only creat so much stuff before the natural resources in it are used up, and our poo poo and pee pee is what is broken down and thrown back into the ground to replenish those resource
      • Re:New RFC? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Analogy Man (601298) on Friday May 21, 2004 @08:52AM (#9213912)
        Whether there is that much waste to convert or not shouldn't be the main point. If you could lock up a load of carbon that would otherwise go up as C02 emissions that would be a good thing in itself. Cleanly and economically generating 5% of the nations energy otherwise coming from fossil fuels would be a tremendous advancement. If there was not enough doodoo to completely replace oil, it is still a step forward.

        If there was a silver bullet to our tricky problems, the Lone Ranger would have showed up by now. I think our energy dependancy and reliance on fossil fuels will need to change incrementally (not to discount a sense of urgency either). It is a workable problem (always the optimist) and fortunately the business drivers will increase as oil supplies become more both financially and environmentally costly to extract.

  • Oil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @12:59AM (#9211992)
    Decrease our need for foreign oil, and increase our use of domestic oil. Doesn't anyone see oil as the problem behind CO2 increases? The economic short-range thinking sometimes disgusts me.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:06AM (#9212040)
      Human activity might indeed be modestly affecting global temperatures. In fact it might be the reason for the extended inter-glacial period we're currently enjoying. A little global warming is a good thing, as it may stave off another catastrophic ice age. The earth left to it's own devices has other ideas that we would find most inhospitable.
    • Re:Oil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Openstandards.net (614258) <slashdot.openstandards@net> on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:55AM (#9212344) Homepage
      I don't know if oil is the primary contributor. I still can't believe that a cow releases 100-200 liters of methane every day in the form of flatulance. Methane has 31x the "global warming" effect of CO2 on atmosphere, so think of that as 3000-6000 liters of CO2 every day.

      I just wish I could put a cow on the back of my truck so I wouldn't have to pay the high price of gas today.

    • Re:Oil (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anakin876 (612770)
      This might be a good way to transition from a foreign oil based economy to a "clean renewable nature friendly economy." This way we give ourselves more time to develop cheap reliable alternatives to oil.
      • Re:Oil (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mysticalfruit (533341)
        I agree.

        Firstly it's not called Thermal Conversion Process. The actual process is called "Thermal Depolymerization".

        Secondly, I see it as a two step process.
        Firsly, since you can feed anything you want into these plants, I think that if you built a couple plants in each state (it would depend on the number of people) you could send..
        a) all agro waste (corn cobs, etc)
        b) human waste (poop, etc)
        c) all non metal trash.

        Plus these machines have proven themselves capable of digesting Antrax and pretty much eve
        • Re:Oil (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Martin Blank (154261)
          What we need is for the government to stay out of it. Let the market decide if it works.

          And there's the major question of whether your second process creates more CO2. There was an article in Scientific American in the last couple of months that suggested that a 100% switch to a hydrogen economy might result in increased CO2 production because the energy to crack the hydrogen out of whatever materials has to come from somewhere, and solar power's just not up to the job.

          I've been watching this for a whil
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:53AM (#9212612)
      "Doesn't anyone see oil as the problem behind CO2 increases?"

      In this case, no. The waste would decay on its own naturally, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere upon doing so. At least through Thermal Depolymerization, we are harnessing the energy from that process. The reason fossil fuels in general cause global warming is that by drilling and burning them we are taking carbon out of the ground and putting it in the air. Carbon from conventional petroleum has been sequestered in the ground for millions of years, while carbon from turkey guts has been part of the closed carbon loop, and thus does not add to the total amount of carbon in the cycle.
      • Don't tell me that the same amount of CO2 is generated by decaying e.g. a ton biowaste to soil than by burning it. No. Just make a solid residua comperasion, on one hand you get don't know 0.9 tons soil? (and 0.1 CO2), on the other hand you burned all of it, you get maybe 0.05 tons of ashes.

        Don't take me on the numbers, I'm no chemist, but common sense tells you that there is a huge difference.
        • by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday May 21, 2004 @07:33AM (#9213510) Journal
          Don't tell me that the same amount of CO2 is generated by decaying e.g. a ton biowaste to soil than by burning it.

          Of course not, but you're overlooking some critical parts of the process:

          First, All of the carbon involved was taken out of the air to begin with as the plants grow. (which are the start of the cycle, whether you are using plant or animal wastes as feedstock). So Even in the worst case scenario, the net increase in CO2 from straight burning of the waste is ZERO.

          Second, the TCP process yields more products than just light crude oil:

          1) Light Crude oil
          2) High quality fertilizer (as a solid)
          3) Solid carbon
          4) Medium to high quality fuel gas (methane, used internally to the process)

          And a few other products in no real quantity...

          The key here is that one of the products is solid carbon, which is almost as good as coal in terms of energy density should you use it as fuel. However, it is more useful (physically and economically) to use as an activated carbon filter for water treatment, because of the quality of the product.

          In other words, at worst the process has a zero net increase of carbon from the atmosphere if you use 100% of the products as fuel and at best a net decrease if you don't. Plus it produces fertilizers and materials that can be used for water treatment! Talk about eco-friendly!
          =Smidge=
    • Re:Oil (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uluckas (103730)
      Oil is one problem behind CO2 increases because _fossile_ oil is usually being used. Thereby releasing carbon that had been traped deep inside the earth.
      Producing oil from agricultural products can only release carbon that has been extracted from the air before.
      This gives you a net zero effect on CO2. Great, isn't it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:00AM (#9211995)
    Wow, since daily US oil consumption is what, 20 *million* barrels per day, I'm
    sure it will be no problem to set up another 10,000 of these plants, and there
    will be absolutely no government or corporate resistance, and the oil will be
    just as good as what comes out of the ground and just as cheap!

    Seriously, the only way we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil is if we
    reduce our dependence on oil, period. And that will only happen when the price
    of oil goes so high we actually have to stop driving our SUVs once in a while.

    Then maybe we can just fuckin' IGNORE the middle east.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:16AM (#9212111)
      If we could build 10k of these plants, we could also ignore the Middle East, since that would roughly match our foreign oil imports.

      No idea how much it costs to build one of these plants, but let's guess $20M. That'd be $200B to end our dependence on foreign oil. About the cost of the Iraq war.
      • by EulerX07 (314098)
        You're probably looking at the very very least 5 million just in salary you'll pay to welders. Having ~70 industrial workers on site at a paper mill for a 2 week shutdown can run you above 500k easily. Now quadruple that for intense construction, and calculate a good 8-12 months of having them around. But that's just for time, now you gotta buy all the equipment.

        Building a new boiler for a paper mill is something around 125-150 million $. That's just one boiler. Some big refineries sites have three or more
    • by phorm (591458) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:16AM (#9212117) Journal
      Regardless of the SUV's... and the fact that the article seems overly optimistic, this is a step in a good direction. While this one plant obviously doesn't come near to providing a solution, time could yield increased efficiency and more plants.

      Also, redirection of organic waste that would otherwise end up elsewhere isn't a bad plan either. Perhaps if they started adding reprocessing plants to major landfills we could exchange waste for oil.

      In the meantime, while SUV's etc are definately a problem, the high oil prices provide a visible indicator that perhaps such vehicles cost more than they're worth. Lots of oil is still being used for fueling things other than automobiles though.... so to be fair it's a lot more than just SUV drivers that need to cut back - overconsumption is a much more global issue.
    • US Oil Consumption (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We use about 19.7 million barrels of oil a day. Interestingly, thats only an increase on 2 million barrels a day since 1973. Given our massive infrastructure growth in that time, I'd say our usage is actually very controlled.

      World Oil Consumption [doe.gov]

      Thanks Google

    • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:41AM (#9212563) Homepage

      Wow, since daily US oil consumption is what, 20 *million* barrels per day, I'm
      sure it will be no problem to set up another 10,000 of these plants, and there
      will be absolutely no government or corporate resistance, and the oil will be
      just as good as what comes out of the ground and just as cheap!


      Yep, you've got it about right.

      US demand is closer to 11 million barrels per day, and with over 20,000 factory farms in the US that could apply the technology, 10,000 is optimistic but not impossible. 5 million barrels a day won't supply all the demand, but it could reduce it 50% which means a lot.

      Of course, since the net effect is to reduce the waste produced by factory farms, the government might actually mandate the building of the plants, but since the plants make money they'd probably be built anyway - government involvement will just make it happen faster. American oil is mostly in the oil refining business so they won't really mind have a second source for raw materials. The only companies likely to dislike it would are the oil drillers, oil shippers and of course OPEC.

      And while the price will naturally be the same as the stuff that comes out of the ground, the price of both is likely to be lower than it would be without the plants online.

      As for quality, it's supposedly the same, but since most oil is simply burned, I doubt it matters much if it's little higher or lower.

      -- not a .sig
      • by jmichaelg (148257) on Friday May 21, 2004 @09:37AM (#9214311) Journal
        but since the plants make money they'd probably be built anyway

        They don't make money. From the faq [res-energy.com], it doesn't appear that a 500 barrel/day plant will make without tax credits.

        Is moneythe plant economically viable?
        The plant is still in the startup phase, but we expect to meet our revenue projections when the plant is operating at capacity. We are counting on legislative assistance in the form of production tax credits, which stimulated other new technology innovation such as wind power. In addition, looking forward, the next generation of plants will be larger, giving us economies of scale and other economic benefits.
    • Wrong view (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ChiralSoftware (743411) <info@chiralsoftware.net> on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:05AM (#9212674) Homepage
      The problem with looking for solutions to the energy problem is that there isn't a solution. There are a whole bunch of small solutions that, when added up together, will be the solution. One plant producing 500 barrels/day is 1/10,000th of the solution. One thousand such plants is 1/10th of the solution. Add in a few nuclear reactors, some solar panels, wind turbines, more efficient cars, biodiesel, 100% electric cars with lithium batteries, telecommuting, maybe even a Segway, and it starts adding up to a solution to the energy problem. If we did all of those things in parallel, within a few years, OPEC would be sweating and we would not have to spend billions of dollars a year on oil, and then billions more on trying to keep our oil suppliers stable and friendly.

      I also hear people say "the oil industry has too much power here for anything to change." This is also the wrong view. Sure, the oil industry does have a lot of power, but the result of their machinations is that our entire economy is dependent on a commodity which we must import from politically unstable and hostile parts of the world which are far away. There are plenty of other powerful industries in the US that have nothing to do with oil that must see this as a hazardous situation, one which should be remedied by moving the US to having multiple energy options to choose from, including cost-competitive domestic solutions. Is the oil industry in the US more powerful than all the other non-oil industries? I don't think so.

      ------------
      Create a WAP server [chiralsoftware.net]

      • Re:Wrong view (Score:3, Insightful)

        by k8er (642660)
        This is what I keep trying to tell people. Every time there is a discussion about an alternative (non-fossil fuel) energy source, people shit on the idea as either costing too much, or not providing enough power to replace the status quo. There is no SINGLE renewable/sustainable/minimally polluting answer, but like you stated, there are many small ones that can be combined into a total solution.

        I think that we need government incentives (like no taxes, even after making a profit, for a period of time).
    • by steveha (103154) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:35AM (#9212804) Homepage
      Yes: the first plant will make 500 barrels per day.

      Future plants will be bigger, and make more.

      And this is totally worth doing. They are taking stuff that is currently garbage, that somebody must pay to dispose of, and they are turning it into oil. And the process will rip apart any bacteria (and even prions) in the input.

      If I understand it correctly, they could actually process sewage into oil! You could actually dig up garbage dumps, process them, and get oil and minerals back.

      This is totally great, and I wish them all success.

      steveha
  • Ahh, thats too bad. . . I only by No. 5 or better oil. . .
  • by gatesh8r (182908) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:02AM (#9212009)
    Crude oil still needs to be refined. Supply like this can be as tightly controlled as OPEG since the process is under patent -- unless someone ELSE finds a way that is not under the patent, and production can meet or exceeed OPEG -- not to mention REFINERIES need to be placed under more competition -- don't count on artificial crude oil to lower prices any time soon.
    • Please tell me there is no patent on fractional distillation, this process is primary-school chemistry. Cryogenic extraction processes may be encumbered, but aren't those only used for natural gas?
      • I don't think so, but I wouldn't put it past the USPTO.
      • Longer carbon chains, such as waxes and tar, are the "heavies" in Petroleum-Engineer-speak. The shorter carbon chains are "lights." The best gasoline is isooctane* (eight carbons) but most of the stuff in crude oil is heavier. So these distillation towers are actually catalytic crackers, splitting up the carbon chains into smaller (more valuable) gasoline while separating the reaction products via distillation. The "catalytic" part is where patents come in, and there are a few companies that own most of
  • Drop in the bucket (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Troll (202208) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:02AM (#9212010) Homepage
    While these plants are all great in their own way (better to use the waste than just to let it rot), 500 b of oil per day is NOTHING. Worldwide consumption is like 20-22 MILLION b per day. The US is somewhere around 6? million....

    Production on a MUCH larger scale will be required for these plants to have any real impact..
  • by ErichTheWebGuy (745925) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:05AM (#9212030) Homepage
    I wonder if it will turn out to be Thermal Conversion Process/Internationally Patented...

    Seriously though, in theory, this seems like a fantastic idea. All that has to happen now is for the capacity to increase, cost of production to come down, and for OPEC (or similar group) to not kill it off.

    There may, however, be a market in the "alternative energy" sector. To cite an example, another ethanol station just popped up to compete with the one existing already in my metro area (population ~550K). They seem to be doing pretty damn well, and maybe this waste-to-oil will start to make a dent in our gas prices, cuz we all know how bad we need it (I just paid 2.01 for 85 octane)!!
    • "(I just paid 2.01 for 85 octane)!!"

      Where!? I'd sell my first born child for that cheap of gas...It's like 2.50 out here in the LA area.

      • Where!?
        Colorado Springs, CO

        Some places around here it is as cheap as 1.99, but I never buy that crap cuz it makes my car run like total shit (read: 7-11 gas sucks!!!)...

        I'd sell my first born child for that cheap of gas

        I'll give you 10 gallons of 91 octance and 5 bucks for shipping :-D
      • Re:TCP/IP (Score:3, Informative)

        Note: it isn't 85 octane he's talking about, he's talking about E-85, a totally different beast.

        E-85 is an 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline fuel that can be used in certain vehicles (mostly late model Big 3 pickups, but also most Tauruses since 95, some Dodge minivans, and even the 03 Benz C320).

        Lots of info at e85fuel.com [e85fuel.com]
    • Re:TCP/IP (Score:2, Insightful)

      by syschker (725565)
      You have a good point however/unfortunatly every time the public sector comes out with a way to "screw" the oil companys out of money (ie water engine, electromagnetic, etc) the oil company's end up buying the company / patent and tucking new technology's / products away and out of public reach.
  • Initial Costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IllogicalStudent (561279) <jsmythe79 @ h o t m a il.com> on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:08AM (#9212053)

    This sounds like a solution to 2 problems: overflowing landfills, and soaring oil prices. The question, of course, comes to down to the almighty buck. The article (yes, I read it, I'm new here) states that it such plants are self-sufficient in terms of producing their own energy to operate, but fails to state their initial cost.

    In these times of short-sighted administrations led by politicians unable to see the big picture beyond getting reeleced in 4 years, how likely is this to be implemented en-masse in municipalities such as Toronto, for example, where it could be used to curb (apparently in an eco-friendly manner, while providing needed petroleum) exports of waste to Michigan?

  • The biggest single problem besides raw crude supply is our environmental laws that have gone totally wild. Thanks to all the environmental regulations we have, there are currently only a handful of refineries capable of producing all these "boutique" blends of gasoline that are required in crazy places like California. (I should know, I live here.) Less competition and less refining supply means higher prices.

    So why is there not more competition and more capacity in the refining business? Probably beca
    • Maybe this makes me a crazy liberal environmentalist...but I like high gas prices. It's better for the environment. Find some way to get around with using a car. Mass transportation? A bike?

      Environmental laws that force refineries to produce the "boutique" blends the parent mentions are a step in the right direction.

    • by JohnsonWax (195390) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:38AM (#9212258)
      Considering how much better air quality in LA has become (I should know, I live here too) perhaps the rest of the nation should adopt the same boutique blend.

      That way, all refineries would be making the same stuff and the regional demand issues could go away. Refineries can be built. They're easier to build in TX than in CA, true, but they can be built.

      Of course, nobody is going to reduce their gas consumption as an act of philanthropy. Gas consumption will go down as soon as the price of gas is high enough to pick something else.
    • lack of oil (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:05AM (#9212390)
      Probably because there hasn't been a single new refinery built in over 17+ years. Why not? Probably because of these wacko environmental laws that make it ridiculously easy for all the Not In MY Back Yard (NIMBY) people to stop any progress from ever being made.

      Some have theorized that no new refineries have been built because they take some time(15 years I think?) to break even, and that oil companies know they don't have 15 years worth of oil that is easily accessible. Thus, why bother making refineries that will never operate long enough to be profitable?

      What's scary is that if you read between the lines and look closely, most of the OPEC nations are pumping oil at their "full capacity" levels- in other words, we're getting to be rather tapped out.

      We'll find other ways of getting around, but what concerns me more is plastic- virtually everything we make needs something plastic, and guess where plastic comes from? That and as we get more and more desperate for oil, it'll be harder to fight off those who want to drill in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, etc.

  • The whole oil thing is just a big scam. Here me out, I've got proof.

    You see, one day while driving back from a LUG^H^H^H my girlfriends place on I-64 my gas light came on. I knew I had about 20 miles before I ran out, and I if I booked I could make it home without having to refill in the middle of the night at some creepy gas station in the country. I figured I'd give it a shot and play gas tank roulette. I tripped the meeter and started watching the miles.

    Well, it was pretty late and I was starting
  • by schwaang (667808) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:13AM (#9212094)
    They make biodiesel [216.239.57.104] from used french fry oil and stuff like that. Runs in unmodified (or barely modified) diesel engines.
    • by Exocet (3998) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:53AM (#9213231) Homepage Journal
      Unmodified engines. The only modifications one would need to make:

      * If your diesel vehicle is 10 years or older you will eventually need to swap out the natural rubber fuel lines for synthetic ones. Less than $20 in parts.

      * If you've been running diesel for awhile now and are switching to 100% biodiesel you will probably need to change your fuel filter after a tank or two. B100 cleans your fuel tank, lines, etc. All that gets filtered.

      Biodiesel can be made from a variety of oils (used or new) + methanol or ethanol + lye + heat (basically). It can be for as little as $1/gallon, if you're buying in bulk and getting your used oil for free. Most places will give their oil away for free since they normally have to pay someone to haul it away for them.

      Sure, there are drawbacks. The positives outweigh the negatives, though.

      I'm involved with the GoBiodiesel Cooperative [gobiodiesel.org] in Portland, OR.
  • Extraordinary claims (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:14AM (#9212101) Homepage Journal
    From the article:

    In addition, it generates its own energy to power the plant, and uses the steam naturally created by the process to heat incoming feedstock, In addition, TCP produces no emissions and no secondary hazardous waste streams.

    So we're getting 200 barrels of oil a day, for "free" (that is, no oil going in). That's critical, of course, since if it took 300 barrels of oil (or even 190) it wouldn't be worth it.

    Fascinating. I hope it scales.
  • What type of oil is oil "number 4?" What is this type of oil used for? Is it usable in vehicles? And why does it sound like a French perfume?
    • Re:Oil No. 4? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rengav (456846) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:30AM (#9212220)
      It's a standard grade of heating oil. If you live on the West Coast of the U.S. you have no idea what heating oil really is since we use electric or natural gas, but on the East Coast and in the Midwest it is still widely used.
    • Re:Oil No. 4? (Score:4, Informative)

      by demonbug (309515) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:23AM (#9212752) Journal
      Fuel Oil No. 4 is a Heavy Fuel Oil. Pour point is -10 degrees celsius. Boiling point ranges from 200 to 600 degrees celsius (or maybe 220-300 degrees fahrenheit; seems to depend on where you look. Probably the latter, since another place says its flashpoint is 140-240 fahrenheit, and autoignition is at 505 degrees fahrenheit). Viscosity at 20 celsius is 200-500 cSt (what the fuck is a cSt? Yeah, I had no idea either, so here you go [roymech.co.uk].)
      Fuel oil no. 4 produces about 145,000 BTU's per gallon (but I don't know how dense it is, so I can't compare to the ~40,000 Btu's in a kilogram of gasoline). Fuel Oil No. 4 is mostly used in industrial burners and marine diesel engines.

      There, now isn't that way more than you wanted to know about Fuel Oil No. 4? Only problem is, I'm not sure Fuel Oil No. 4 would be the same as Oil No. 4; I assume it is though, because if it was being compared to crude oils it should have a letter designation.
  • This *is* useful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PHPhD2B (675590) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:20AM (#9212145)
    Discover Magazine ran an article on this process, and it's incredibly versatile. It can serve a dual purpose: reducing the dependence on foreign oil, AND reducing the amount of waste going into landfills.

    100-200 barrels a day is NOT to laugh at, many privately owned oil wells produce far less than that per day. It still pays off to run them. And yes, it is realistic to set up hundreds or even thousands of these plants - I'd imagine many municipalities would be interested in using a plant like this to turn their waste into a resource rather than a drain. The process isn't just for turkey guts, it can convert plastic scrap, old tires, and other such refuse into oil as well.

    So don't knock it just because the output seems puny - this can be used not only to reduce the dependence on foreign oil, it is also useful in creating a decentralized energy infrastructure.

  • by patdabiker (710704) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:20AM (#9212153) Homepage
    "TCP succeeds in breaking down long chains of organic polymers into their smallest units and reforming them into new combinations to produce clean solid, liquid and gaseous alternative fuels and specialty chemicals."
    It sounds like the oil derived from this process is cleaner burning than traditional oils. Is that true? If so, I would advocate finding a way to apply apply some sort of adaptive process to the current oil supply to reduce harmful emissions.
    • It's not just cleaner, it isn't upsetting the balance of CO2.

      Burning gasoline releases CO2 into the atmosphere because it is taking carbon that was kept underground and putting it in the air.

      Recycling plant and animal matter doesn't because the carbon came from the air in the first place; energy production begins to participate in the carbon-cycle instead of upsetting it.
  • by Goonie (8651) * <robert.merkel@TI ... ra.org minus cat> on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:22AM (#9212167) Homepage
    In Victoria, Australia, one of the power companies is planning to do a similar thing with coal [apel.com.au], except they're going to churn out enough of it to supply most of the local market. If it works, they're going to generate cheap, low-sulfur (and thus low-emission) diesel, run a whopping great electricity plant from the byproducts, and all the CO2 from the generation will be stuffed underground for a very long time. While it's not ideal, it's a heck of a lot better than the current situation (burn the coal straight into the atmosphere and import oil from overseas).
  • green investing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by werdnapk (706357) on Friday May 21, 2004 @01:35AM (#9212247)
    This is the type of company I'd like my investment dollars to go towards and not the usual wal-mart and mcdonalds type stocks. These types of companies are only going to become more and more important (I hope).

    What are some of the better resources (ie. web)available out there where I can find more information?

    • Re:green investing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)
      Actually, McDonalds would be the PERFECT Company to use this technology. McDonalds own so much farmland with agriculture production; it would be dumb as hell for them NOT to tap into their own waste for extra revenue.

      In the future, expect McDonalds to have huge contracts with Shell and Exxon as they have extended refining capability. And with America addicted to fast food and their SUVs, all bets are off. Wanna guess what stocks I'm going to monitor?

  • Good business plan (Score:5, Informative)

    by Openstandards.net (614258) <slashdot.openstandards@net> on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:02AM (#9212375) Homepage
    I actually believe this is a very viable business plan, because of my experience at BP Chemicals. BP Chemicals (originally part of Standard Oil), was created to process the waste of the oil business, in an attempt to at least recoup some of the costs, and possibly make a profit.

    It turned out to be very lucrative, and became a major cash producer for BP. When oil income was down, they counted on Chemicals to keep cash and profits up.

    One of their earliest less complex chemicals they produced happened to be nitrogen, used to create fertilizer. Later, they produce a lot more complex chemicals, and even sold their nitrogen facilities in the 90s. Their acrylonitriles business was booming, the last time I worked for them.

    The bottom line is that a business created to reduce the cost of waste, and possibly even make a profit by processing it turned out to be a major industry success. Thus, I believe that since they are not merely producing oil through an unconventional means, but using the savings from waste management to drive the business, this could be a huge success and create a new industry.

  • by WoodstockJeff (568111) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:15AM (#9212445) Homepage
    With the amount of agricultural waste in the U.S., and many more of these plants, we could possibly reduce our need for foreign oil.

    I still want to know where this vast amount of agro waste is... U.S. farmers, in general, make use of everything they possibly can, to reduce their costs. What some classify as "waste" is reincorporated into the soil to replace nutrients that would otherwise require use of chemical fertilizers, which cause money. Farms don't have manure spreaders just because the farmers don't want a large trash bill! There have been farmers working with municipalities for decades to recycle our post-sewage-treatment crap as fertilizer, when the goverment will allow it.

    That's not to say there isn't bio waste that could be recycled. Consumer food waste, for example, after you separate out the inorganics that don't fit municipal recycling rules. But that isn't free - someone (i.e., consumers) is going to have to pay the additional cost to do the separation, or make sure that those costs are less than what landfills charge to accept the waste. The aforementioned output of sewage plants, when blocked by government regulation from being incorporated into the soil, is another source.

    The fact is, we don't have enough farm land under tillage in the world to supply both our food and energy needs. And I doubt environmentalists would enthusiastically support any efforts to correct that. This article describes an interesting side note in energy history, and it does point a way towards a way to truly incorporate "solar energy" into our current environment that does not require repaving our world with solar cells.

    But (and this is where my hotbutton is triggered) the source of the "waste" used isn't going to be farms as we think of them today. Unless, of course, we find (or design!) a fast-growing plant that doesn't leach away the nutrients needed for food plants in the process, preferably one that can be used to reclaim land by breaking up "bad" soils, and working like legumes [osu.edu] to reduce land erosion and add nitrogen to the soil for later food crops, yet provide plenty of biomass for production of fuel. Maybe something socially acceptable enough to turn any vacant city lot into a "fuel farm", rather than using grass. Oh, and it can't kill off any exotic bugs or slugs in the process!

    Gee, I wonder if the future biomass fuel companies will make it worth my time and money to take my 3+ acres of grass clippings for fuel production, rather than me just composting them?

    • by gerardrj (207690) on Friday May 21, 2004 @02:43AM (#9212570) Journal
      You don't know who ConAgra is do you? These are the people who are just about solely responsible for the addition of ethanol to gasoline. ConAgra (and I think Arthur Daniels Midland: ADM) lobbied hard for those requirements.
      See.. they had a whole lot of land they couldn't use profitably under then current government farm subsidies, so they came up with a way to grow corn and turn it in to an automotive fuel required by law.
      They get paid a farm subsidy to grow corn, then they are paid a federal clean-air subsidy for creating a clean-air fuel, then they sell that fuel at full market price to gasoline blenders. It's quite the cash cow.
      You as a consumer are actually paying well over the listed pump price for gasoline because of these hidden payments.
  • Good news! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:35AM (#9212803)
    This is the first bit of sensible news to come out of USA for a long, long time, for several reasons:

    1. 500 barrels is of course nearly nothing, but this does has the potential to become significant - see other posts.

    2. The primary aim is to solve a waste problem, which this technology seems to do in a brilliant way.

    3. It may also help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. When you burn farm waste, you release CO2 into the athmosphere, true, but that's where it came from - the plants have taken CO2 out to build up carbohydrates. Contrast this with fossil fuel, where you produce CO2 that was taken out many hundred million years ago, which can only increase the levels of CO2. On top of that, when the farm waste isn't left to rot, less methane is produced, which again can make a big difference.

    All in all - this seems good and sensible through and through. Which makes me fear that some narrowminded and greedy idiot with too much money and power will want to kill it off.
  • While the americans are debating wheter to drive a 2-wheel or 4-wheel SUV, I'd like to point out that this neccessarily doesnt have to be a good thing.

    Our demand is decided upon access. If we have a low oilprice, we WILL use more oil. If we use more oil we will have more exhaustion. This merely means we will be using _more_ oil than before since we have a larger pool of it.

    Its an catch-22 argument, but when we humans find new resources to exploit we always increase the surrounding effects on environment. Lets say we succeed to create efficient fusion-power. Yes! Instant o-rama deluxe flying cars with jetpacks. Great thing dr Wilchenstein?
    We'll have to build new skyroads, new cars, new jetpacks. Using this new resource will allow us to build other things from the resources we are now already using. With new energy-resources we will be able to do "new things" like going to the moon,
    flying more, generally travel more. All of this might sound good, but it will in the long term put more and more strain on the resources we use from earth.

  • Wikipedia article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveha (103154) on Friday May 21, 2004 @03:39AM (#9212826) Homepage
    Wikipedia has a great article about this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerizat ion [wikipedia.org]

    steveha
  • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Friday May 21, 2004 @05:10AM (#9213107)
    Say $41 at the moment on the open market.

    The plant produces 500 barrels per day, that's $20,500 per day or $7.5 million per year turnover. They are very cagey about the costs and payback period. This kind of thing has been possible for years, it just has never been economically feasable. It all depends on how much a plant costs to build, how much the waste costs and what the running costs are.

    Definitely a good idea to see your waste as a resource though.

  • by dant77 (781737) on Friday May 21, 2004 @06:55AM (#9213391)
    I live in the UK and petrol / diesel prices are over $6 per gallon. In light of this, and the fact that petrol consumption is the cause of all kinds of environmental devastation (my girlfriend comes from Northern Spain, recently wrecked by the Prestige spill) and war, I have decided to make my own diesel fuel from waste vegetable oil.

    Biodiesel and associated technologies can only ever be a part of truly sustainable glabal energy policy, but it has a large part to play in these early stages as it uses existing technology.

    Not many people know that the original diesel engine ran on peanut oil!

    I bought a cheap diesel car and built an oil refinery from scrap metal in my shed. I have made friends from my friendly, local, Kurdish kebab seller and I am well on the way to fuel independence.

    Check out my project at:

    Dan's biodiesel [zapto.org]

    Peace and grease!
  • FYI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by haxor.dk (463614) on Friday May 21, 2004 @07:45AM (#9213560) Homepage
    The US imports roughly 20 million 42-gallon barrels of crude oil every day.

    500 barrels/day is a drop in the bucket. Not to say that it isn't a good piece of news, but...
  • by kwandar (733439) on Friday May 21, 2004 @07:50AM (#9213579)

    I've been watching a similar Company [processcapital.ca]
    bring a waste oil to diesel fuel concept to market here in Canada.


    The current process to treat waste oil (ie. your 5,000 Km oil change) is to ship it halfway across the country in trucks, filter it, add chemicals, and sell it as refurbished motor oil. This is expensive and polluting.


    Process Capital Corporation's process involves putting micro-refineries near to the sources of used oil, and converting at a much lower cost to diesel fuel. No new oil enters the system, and no oil leaves the system.


    Now if we can just get governments to look at and mandate the ramping up and use of some of these technologies, in the way that California (okay, perhaps not exactly that way) started mandating certain minimum pollution standards, on cars.



  • by Jonboy X (319895) <jonathan.oexner@alum . w p i.edu> on Friday May 21, 2004 @09:41AM (#9214363) Journal
    Bah. Call me back when you're ready to offer me an SUV that gets 20 miles to the giblet.

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