Squeez­ing fuel out of plas­tic waste

Pater­son En­ergy pro­duces a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to diesel that can fire gen­er­a­tors, kilns...


Abusi­ness born out of com­mit­ment to a clean en­vi­ron­ment, a tech­nol­ogy honed over years, scaled up to com­mer­cial lev­els and proven in the field — that is Pater­son En­ergy for you.

The com­pany builds plants that can process plas­tic waste to pro­duce liq­uid fuel that is cheaper than diesel and a sub­sti­tute to fuel gen­er­a­tors, in­dus­trial boil­ers, kilns, fur­naces dieselpow­ered en­gines and other such equip­ment.

Pater­son En­ergy’s plants de­liver the dou­ble ben­e­fit of tack­ling plas­tic waste and pro­duc­ing a use­ful prod­uct from waste.

Even waste such as shop­ping bags and mis­cel­la­neous plas­tic stuff that are not nor­mally picked up by rag pick­ers for re­cy­cling can be used as a raw ma­te­rial. Plas­tics are the bane of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, they do not de­grade, they clog drains, choke live­stock, mar the en­vi­ron­ment and are pil­ing up by the day. But now there is a so­lu­tion, and “it is en­vi­ron­ment­friendly and bank­able,” says Vidya Amar­nath, Direc­tor, Pater­son En­ergy.

In-house tech

The tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped in-house in­volves ther­mo­chem­i­cal de­poly­meri­sa­tion – es­sen­tially break­ing down plas­tic at 300-500 de­grees Centi­grade in the ab­sence of oxy­gen to get the liq­uid fuel. Some gases gen­er­ated dur­ing the process are reused for heat­ing. Any solid residue in the fi­nal stage is much like car­bon black, can be used in di­verse ways in­clud­ing as hol­low blocks. So it is a “ze­rodis­charge, zero-ef­flu­ent plant,” she says.

Ini­tially, the whole con­cept was kicked off as a so­cial cause to rid cities of plas­tic waste. But with the po­ten­tial to ex­pand the scope of the project and the com­pany re­cently bag­ging a con­tract from En­gi­neers In­dia Ltd to set up a 5tonne-a-day waste-to-fuel project at Mathura in Ut­tar Pradesh, Pater­son En­ergy has crossed a crit­i­cal thresh­old. It hopes to tap the emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in this line, she says.

This is a sec­tor that is open­ing up. The project is one of many planned by the gov­ern­ment as part of the Swachh Bharat ini­tia­tive to clean up tem­ple towns and tourist cen­tres. Com­pa­nies such as Pater­son En­ergy can look for­ward to ex­ploit­ing such op­por­tu­ni­ties.

K Venkatesh, Pres­i­dent, Pater­son En­ergy, says the pro­posed plant in Mathura is part of a ₹9.5-crore con­tract with ₹5.5 crore com­ing in as a vi­a­bil­ity gap fund­ing, ₹2.5-3-crore plant cost and the bal­ance be­ing op­er­a­tional cost. The com­pany will set up the plant and han­dle the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance for 15 years. Pater­son En­ergy gets to sell the plas­tic oil and re­tain the rev­enue. The plant will gen­er­ate about 2,500 litres of oil per day with the av­er­age price es­ti­mated at about ₹40 a litre.

In­creas­ingly, as lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tions move to­wards more strin­gent waste man­age­ment, Pater­son En­ergy sees a grow­ing de­mand for its so­lu­tion. Look at any ma­jor ur­ban cen­tre or in­dus­trial hub and plas­tic waste will be a sig­nif­i­cant is­sue, he points out. For in­stance, the Cen­tre’s Waste Man­age­ment Rules 2016 dic­tate tough guide­lines for in­dus­tries that gen­er­ate plas­tic and holds them re­spon­si­ble for safe dis­posal.

But, Venkatesh em­pha­sises, the pri­mary ob­jec­tive of a plas­tic fuel plant is waste man­age­ment. Oil is only the ic­ing on the cake. Cit­ing pos­si­ble in­stances where the so­lu­tion can be ap­plied, he points out the Sripe­rum­budur belt, a ma­jor au­to­mo­bile hub near Chen­nai, gen­er­ates about 70-80 tonnes of plas­tic waste daily. Pa­per man­u­fac­tur­ers us­ing re­cy­cled pa­per as raw ma­te­rial gen­er­ate huge plas­tic waste from mul­ti­lay­ered and coated pa­per. A 300 ton­neper-day de-ink­ing plant that con­verts used pa­per to pa­per pulp will gen­er­ate about 15-20 tonnes of waste plas­tic.

The first of Pater­son En­ergy’s 3-tpd plant was put up at its own cost at Valarpu­ram in Sripe­rum­budur. It has now been ex­panded to about 7.5 tonnes.

Some of th­ese in­dus­tries are keen to use this op­tion to deal with plas­tic wastes. This method of plas­tic dis­posal can also come un­der CSR ac­tiv­ity of the cor­po­rate sec­tor, he says.

“Pater­son En­ergy is keen to infuse funds for the next level of ex­pan­sion and is look­ing to tap var­i­ous sources in­clud­ing pri­vate eq­uity.”

A vi­able op­tion

Vidya points out that with in­dus­tries stuck with huge vol­umes of plas­tic, Pater­son En­ergy’s so­lu­tion is a vi­able op­tion. The tech­nol­ogy has been fine tuned in-house. The com­pany has the sup­port of ex­perts from IITs, Cen­tral In­sti­tute of Plas­tics En­gi­neer­ing & Tech­nol­ogy. It has stan­dard­ised pro­duc­tion of plants of 3–20 tpd ca­pac­ity based on ther­mo­chem­i­cal de­poly­meri­sa­tion. It is recog­nised as a start-up by the Depart­ment of In­dus­trial Pol­icy & Pro­mo­tion of the Com­merce Min­istry.

The com­pany is keen to infuse funds for the next level of ex­pan­sion and is look­ing to tap var­i­ous sources in­clud­ing pri­vate eq­uity, Vidya says.

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