High density polyethylene (HDPE) pyrolysis plant


Thermal degradation of plastic polymers is becoming an increasingly important method for the conversion of plastic materials into valuable chemicals and oil products. In this work, virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE) was chosen as a material for pyrolysis. A simple pyrolysis reactor system has been used to pyrolyse virgin HDPE with an objective to optimize the liquid product yield at a temperature range of 400°C to 550°C. The chemical analysis of the HDPE pyrolytic oil showed the presence of functional groups such as alkanes, alkenes, alcohols, ethers, carboxylic acids, esters, and phenyl ring substitution bands. The composition of the pyrolytic oil was analyzed using GC-MS, and it was found that the main constituents were n-Octadecane, n-Heptadecane, 1-Pentadecene, Octadecane, Pentadecane, and 1-Nonadecene. The physical properties of the obtained pyrolytic oil were close to those of mixture of petroleum products.

1. Introduction

Plastic materials comprise a steadily increasing proportion of the municipal and industrial waste going into landfill. Owing to the huge amount of plastic wastes and environmental pressures, recycling of plastics has become a predominant subject in today’s plastics industry. Development of technologies for reducing plastic waste, which are acceptable from the environmental standpoint and are cost-effective, has proven to be a difficult challenge because of the complexities inherent in the reuse of polymers. Establishing optimal processes for the reuse/recycling of plastic materials, thus, remains a worldwide challenge in the new century. Plastic materials find applications in agriculture as well as in plastic packaging, which is a high-volume market owing to the many advantages of plastics over other traditional materials. However, such materials are also the most visible in the waste stream and have received a great deal of public criticism as solid materials have comparatively short life-cycles and usually are nondegradable.

Thermal cracking, or pyrolysis, involves the degradation of the polymeric materials by heating in the absence of oxygen. The process is usually conducted at temperatures between 500 and 800°C and results in the formation of a carbonized char and a volatile fraction that may be separated into condensable hydrocarbon oil and a noncondensable high calorific value gas. The proportion of each fraction and its precise composition depend primarily on the nature of the plastic waste and on process conditions as well.

In pyrolytic processes, a proportion of species generated directly from the initial degradation reaction are transformed into secondary products due to the occurrence of inter- and intramolecular reactions. The extent and the nature of these reactions depend both on the reaction temperature and also on the residence of the products in the reaction zone, an aspect that is primarily affected by the reactor design.

In addition, reactor design also plays a fundamental role, as it has to overcome problems related to the low thermal conductivity and high viscosity of the molten polymers. Several types of reactors have been reported in the literature, the most frequent being fluidized bed reactors, batch reactors, and screw kiln reactors [2].

Characteristics of thermal degradation of heavy hydrocarbons can be described with the following items.(1)High production of C1s and C2s in the gas product.(2)Olefins are less branched.(3)Some diolefins made at high temperature.(4)Gasoline selectivity is poor; that is, oil products have a wide distribution of molecular weight.(5)Gas and coke products are high.(6)Reactions are slow compared with catalytic reactions.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is the third-largest commodity plastic material in the world, after polyvinyl chloride and polypropylene in terms of volume. It is a thermoplastic material composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms joined together forming high-molecular-weight products. The effect of temperature and the type of reactor on the pyrolysis of HDPE has been studied, and some of the results are reviewed.

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