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December 2007

Diesel created from waste
Innovations aid energy and disposal sectors

Schaffhausen, Switzerland— Diesel and heating oil at a much cheaper price than fuel purchased at gas stations or for heating tanks - this wish will soon become a reality thanks to a technological innovation made in Germany that makes it possible to turn oil and plastic waste product, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, into mineral fuels. Not only would this solve part of the energy problem, it would also address a disposal problem at the same time.

Ever since the price for a barrel of crude oil has crossed the $30 threshold, diesel made from waste products has become price competitive with refinery products. This competitive advantage is boosted every time the crude oil price rises by another cent.

At a price of close to US$85 for a barrel of crude oil and a current exchange rate of EUR 1.00 = US $1.40, the average per liter cost of diesel fuel at European gas stations is EUR 1.05. However, due to the wide range of different sales and mineral oil taxes, there are substantial price fluctuations throughout Europe. In Estonia for instance, a liter costs as little as $.88, while the Britons have to dole out EUR 1.42.

Even if, based on Europe-wide calculations, half of the price we pay at gas stations actually goes to the government in the form of taxes, the price calculations of the mineral oil conglomerates are and will always be driven by the crude oil price, which results in a production cost of approximately $.55.

Given this scenario, Biotherm Technologie AG is offering a process that cuts the costs of producing an absolutely identical product by 40 percent, translating into a price advantage of $.25 per liter.

“From an economic standpoint, this technology will be of interest to privately owned as well as public disposal service companies, as well as industrial and commercial businesses”, comments Christopher Stampfli, the designated director of the Schaffhausen-based company. “Whether you need fuel for your own fleet or for resale, the profit margin is guaranteed as is the replenishment of raw materials. Moreover, the new method supports the idea of environmental protection, thanks to the diligent handling of our natural resources.”

The patented process, which was developed by Clyvia Technology GmbH in Wegberg, Germany is based on fractionized de-polymerization, a process similar to the cracking of crude oil. At a temperature of 400° Celsius, which is far lower than the temperature used in conventional cracking processes such as pyrolysis, long hydrocarbon chains are subjected to scission to subsequently evaporate and settle in the form of diesel oil in a condenser.

The volume of waste containing high volumes of plastics in the 25 EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland totaled 22 million tons in 2005. Europe generates 2.5 million tons of old oil suitable for reprocessing. The largest portion of this waste, i.e. close to 62 percent, stems from packaging material, followed by waste from the construction, automotive and electrical sectors. However, at this time, only 46 percent of this waste is re-used, while 53 percent is simply disposed of. The process developed by Clyvia would make it possible to re-process this potential, which remains unused to date, i.e. about 11.6 million tons, into premium combustion and fuel materials.