Microwave recycling used for auto shredder residue
Starting this May, an automobile shredding operation in Long Island, New
York will be utilizing a microwave 10-ton machine developed by New Jersey-based
Global Resource Corp. (GRC) to convert automobile shredder residue (ASR)
into hydrocarbons – a mixture of gases and oil.
The process does not produce carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon
dioxide (CO2) due to the fact that it works in a vacuum.
Although primarily designed for converting coal, shale
and other natural resources into hydrocarbons, the machine, currently designated
as the 10-ton recycler, could play a vital role in the recycling of rubber
and plastic products to recover the petroleum that went into making them.
“We found a bunch of microwave frequencies that are out of the norm – way
up the scale of industrial frequencies,” says GRC CEO and president,
Frank Pringle. “We found 18,000 frequencies that go after hydrocarbons.”
It took the company 10 years and $3 million in research
and development to create the technology. Its first commercial machine, the
size of a small bus, cost $5.1 million to manufacture.
Following tests with materials sent to GRC by shredders,
the right formulation was found.
For every 100 pounds of ASR that is processed, 70 pounds are converted
into hydrocarbons – a thick viscous combination of oils and very hot
consumable gas between the 1,100 and 2,000 BTU range per cubic foot.
“There is water in it, but most of the weight is in the form of gases
and oil,” says Pringle.
The recovery of gas ranges from 50 to 60 percent. The oil
and gas can then be used to power the GRC machine and supply power for the
For the remaining 30 percent, on average 25 percent consists
of an inert ash and 5 percent metals. The ash can be shaped into blocks and
because it still contains some BTUs, it can be incinerated to generate power.
The Long Island shredder currently uses natural gas to
power its facility and equipment, including the giant metal eater, which
“I told the owner that we are going to liberate more gases than will
be required to run your machine and that you ought to get a small turbine
to make electricity,” says Pringle. “He is weighing that option
now. The East Coast people need this.”
Pringle estimates that the Long Island firm can recover
its investment in 11 months.
GRC also has a small continuous motion lab unit that can
handle as much as one ton per hour to operate at the head office. This machine
would allow the company to do additional testing and analysis.
The gas that is created requires an input of oxygen to
reduce the strength of the burn.
“The oils, because they are very viscous,” says Pringle, “would
need to be cut with kerosene or something similar to be sold as a heavy heating
The technology can also be used to recycle discarded tires.
“I can drive my diesel truck on the oil that comes out of that,” says
Pringle. “It’s a nice rich diesel fuel. A 14-inch tire weighs
about 20 pounds and takes about 50 cents worth of electricity to gasify it.
It’s a tremendous yield. You get 1.2 gallons of diesel fuel, 50 cubic
feet of gases, 7.5 pounds of carbon black that can be used by the chemical
industry, and about two pounds of steel that is stripped of any rubber on
it – it has a higher value than just regular carbon steel.
“It’s worth about five dollars in those four components,” he
adds. “This is a closed system. We don’t use any oxygen. It’s
in a vacuum and nothing goes into the environment.”
While Pringle says his tire recycling technology is proven, he has been unsuccessful
in securing permits from New Jersey to establish a plant.
“There have been so many scams out there, that when we talk to somebody,” he
says, “its how do we know this is going to work, even though we have
verifications from institutions and the Department of Energy. We run into
this all the time.”
Pringle says that automobile recyclers would be in a good
position to recycle tires because “they have all the permits and it is a closed system.
Nothing goes into the environment, other than the emissions from the turbines
that generate electricity and they have scrubbers on them.”
Pringle says it would be easy to establish recycling centers
for tires across the United States to convert them into fuels.
Other rubber and plastic products can also be recycled
using the GRC machine and Pringle says that his company is anticipating a
project from one of the largest automobile recycling firms in the world.
“We can do any type of plastic,” he says. “Every day in
the U.S., we bury the equivalent of five million barrels of plastic byproducts.
All that can be brought back into combustible gases and oil.”
Nor do contaminated plastics stymie GRC’s machine, says Pringle, who
notes that the machine could handle all types of plastic simultaneously.
“What is left over is just a clean ash that we can turn into blocks,” he
says. “The PCBs are gasified and broken down into either oil or gas
and are not harmful.”
In terms of energy production from raw materials, with
100 pounds of bituminous coal, the machine gasifies 30 pounds, creates 5
pounds of coal tar and another 25 pounds of methane and hydrogen.
‘To make hydrogen is very expensive – it costs more than you
sell it for,” says Pringle. “What we’re doing to get 150
pounds of hydrogen or methane takes 3 minutes. The estimated energy cost
is about $10 a ton. Everybody wants fuel cells and hydrogen is the key ingredient.
That is 50 percent of the gases that we get out of coal.
“West Virginia has done two experiments and we are waiting for their
written confirmation,” he adds. “We also produce a high grade
coke material. We are doing a joint project with Penn State for oil shale
and will probably do a joint project with West Virginia on bituminous coal.”