Oxford Sustainable Fuels has discovered a key process to complete the utilisation of waste polymer into transportation quality fuels and chemical feedstocks for recycling, providing a viable route to utilise waste previously left for incineration or landfill.

We were delighted to be invited to participate as industrial expert for “The Future of Renewable Energy & Fuels Work: Academia-Industry Dialogue”.

Turning polymer waste into fuel or chemicals is one of the fundamental instruments to increase the efficient use of crude oil resources and more specifically, reduce landfill and the burgeoning issue of marine litter. Pyrolysis (thermo cracking) of end-of-life polymer has long been thought to be a technology of potential, but its use has been limited by the marketable quality of the crude oil produced. The crude oil typically suffers from the diversity of the waste feed, contamination common in wastes and also byproducts from pyrolysis itself. Oxford Sustainable Fuels has developed new technologies that can efficiently upgrade crude pyrolysis oil with minimum energy input into high-quality transportation fuels and chemical feedstocks, thus paving the way for a circular economy and incentivizing the recovery of low-grade polymer such as non-recyclable plastics and tyres, rather than their disposal.

“The primary focus at OSF has been to create refining technology for efficient low energy conversion of oils from multiple and mixed feedstock types” explains COO Mr. Ben Williams , “our target has been to bridge the gap between crude pyrolysis oil and the technical requirements of the fuels and chemical markets, thus improving the overall viability of waste plastic and tyre treatment via pyrolysis”

OSF was founded in 2017 based upon discovery and patents from within the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory of Oxford University. OSF’s advanced solutions are applied to reduce the inherent instability of the oil and remove unwanted chemical species that act as catalyst to polymerisation under heat or significant challenge for onward treatment by existing refining assets. It has also developed techniques to transform the oil directly into high-quality blendstocks for gasoline and diesel to increase the viability of the overall process when deployed to remote locations where refining and chemical infrastructure do not exist or the logistics are too costly.

By targeting low energy processes, OSF has a scalable technology that could be deployed either as part of local waste management facility or through to large scale refining and petrochemical complexes.  It has tested its processes with multiple pyrolysis technologies and plastics types to confirm its suitability with existing and emerging pyrolysis technology. “It’s exciting that we have found a ubiquitous solution to the conundrum of polymer pyrolysis oil and I can’t wait to see this deployed on an industrial scale,” says CTO Dr Zhaoxi Zhang.

For the future, a solution is urgently required based on turning polymer into fuels and other products and it looks like OSF is about to deliver just this.