American Recycler Newspaper


LNG waste technology recycles tires
by Brian R. Hook E-mail the author

Wood Fuel Plant

Bob Shatten, president of SuperCool LLC in Arlington, Massachusetts, said his company has developed a method that will change the dynamics of the scrap-tire market.

“I really do believe that it can be a transformational technology in terms of how we’re dealing with this solid waste problem nationwide,” Shatten said.

Shatten said the company’s patented method is known as “cold sharing” and is analogous to co-generation used in the power industry. But instead of using excess heat produced at power plants, SuperCool will utilize wasted refrigeration capacity from liquefied natural gas (LNG) distribution terminals to turn scrap tires into fine crumb rubber.

Shatten referred to the process as industrial symbiosis or industrial ecology, because the method takes one industry’s waste and turns it into a product. “We take a solid waste problem and apply it to another industry’s waste, which is refrigeration, which allows us to be much more economical to produce fine mesh crumb rubber,” Shatten said.

SuperCool intends to co-locate cryogenic scrap-tire grinding facilities adjacent to LNG distribution terminals. Its first application is a patented heat exchange process for the cryogenic size reduction of scrap tires into high quality rubber crumb. It will utilize the cold from the LNG and also reduce the energy required to vaporize the LNG.

Shatten said the process would reduce the cost of cryogenic scrap tire recycling. “We view it as a potential transformational technology for crumb rubber recycling, especially fine mesh applications that have previously not been economical,” he said.

LNG is shipped in super tankers and is offloaded into terminals where it is heated and vaporized before being introduced into the natural gas pipeline system. Shatten said the price to reheat the gas is about two percent of all the energy that the facility receives.

“We want to provide them with free supply of heat through simple heat transfer and they’ll supply us with refrigeration that is being taken from the liquefied gas through a heat exchanger and piping system,” Shatten said. “Once we have the refrigeration on our side of the fence line, we simply have another heat exchanger in which we run either air or nitrogen gas across it and use that refrigerated air or nitrogen to freeze the rubber.”

SuperCool’s system would then cool the scrap tires below a negative 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The rubber then becomes brittle allowing the facility to shatter the scrap tires and sift and separate out the metal and the fiber to create the fine mesh crumb rubber.

“It’s been a chicken and egg industry that people have not been able to deliver a high valued consistent product economically,” Shatten said. He said the scrap tire recycling industry has been using either a wet attrition method or a cryogenic method, which has a greater liquid nitrogen demand, to turn scrap tires into crumb rubber.

“In our case the more refrigeration demand that we use the more energy we can save the liquefied natural gas distribution terminal,” Shatten said. “So, we completely changed the economics on how this material can be produced in the future.”

SuperCool is in negotiations with a number of LNG terminals across the country with a plan to have the first three plants constructed by 2007. Shatten estimates each facility will cost $15 million. He said the company is looking for strategic partners and/or venture capital. “It’s been an intricate process in the fact that we need to secure markets in order for us to feel comfortable in going forward with the capital investment.”

“Our business plan envisions probably no more than three terminals in North America, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast and one on the Gulf Coast,” Shatten said. He said the company is also looking at potential sites in Europe. He estimated a long-term potential of building up to 10 to 15 facilities worldwide.

Shatten said that the scrap-tire market’s current focus on burning tires for energy recovery is not a sustainable practice. Instead, he said that the SuperCool’s recycling method has a lot of secondary benefits “because we’re keeping the rubber in commerce by enabling it to go into more applications by creating a higher valued product.”

SuperCool estimates that of the 290 million scrap tires generated across the country, 87 percent is burned, used as civil engineering fill or placed in landfills. Less than five percent of the original $2.5 billion in raw materials is recovered. Instead, SuperCool estimates that up to 50 percent of the original value could be recovered for multiple uses if the rubber could be ground into a very fine crumb-rubber powder.

SuperCool estimates consumption of virgin and synthetic rubber to grow at 20 percent during the next 5 to 7 years. “We think there are significant changes in the marketplace due to the increased price of oil which causes an increased price in rubber,” Shatten said. “The increased demand that is coming from China and India are also necessitating that companies find other uses to reduce their demand on rubber materials.”

J. D. Jackson, chief technology officer at SuperCool, also said he thinks the new method will impact the scrap-tire market favorably. “It takes a technology to produce fine mesh rubber cryogenically that was practical before and now it is economical, whereas before it was practical and uneconomical because of the cost,” Jackson said.

As the oil market continues to rise, the industries that use rubber will work to stay competitive and try to hold costs down, Jackson said. “They’ll become more favorably attracted to using lower cost materials which include the recycled rubber crumb.”

Jackson said that there are proven advantages to using cryogenics. But the big deterrent in the past has been the cost of the refrigerant. “If you can remove the cost of refrigerant from the equation, what has been a marginally profitable to unprofitable business in the past now can become a profitable business,” Jackson said.

“I’m anticipating that the economic drivers to cause it to move on upward are very strong. In my opinion, nothing drives technology like good economics. They haven’t been favorable in the past. They look favorable in the future,” Jackson said.

Robert Shapiro, chief executive officer of Federal Recycling Technologies Inc., in Norman, Oklahoma, is also hoping technology will drive good economics. “Our whole thesis was maybe we could recycle tires into products good enough to go back to making tires again. That would be taking recycling full circle,” Shapiro said about his method.

Federal Recycling has a patent to apply advanced systems controls at scrap-tire recycling plants to produce two high-grade commodity products: carbon black and solvent oil. The technology recovers approximately six pounds of a commodity grade carbon black and 1.3 gallons of commodity grade solvent oil from each scrap tire.

Shapiro said that $25 million is needed to develop each plant, which would cover everything from land to the cost of permitting to the actual plant. He said the company expects to close soon on the first plant, which will be built in nearby Oklahoma City.

Each recycling plant would process 28,000 tons of shreds on a four-reactor plant or about 2.8 million tires per year, according to Federal Recycling. The company estimates that each plant would generate operating income of $13.5 million annually. Plus, each plant would reduce the need for 200,000 barrels of crude oil a year.

“The impact would be developing and putting in place a very profitable way to encourage further recycling of tires, rather than abandoning the tires,” Shapiro said. “There would be a very positive economic return for recycling tires.”

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