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‘Plastic Waste to Fuel’ project has major benefits for Oman

Oman’s fledgling, yet eminently ground-breaking, bid to convert the prodigious quantities of plastic waste being generated annually around the country into commercially valuable fuel has potentially game-changing benefits for the Sultanate — economically and environmentally.

According to a key researcher engaged in this landmark endeavour, success in the eventual commercialisation of this technological process will not only provide an effective and sustainable solution to the scourge of plastic waste imperilling the natural environmental, but crucially, it will also open up new commercial opportunities and revenue streams for the Omani economy.

Equally, the technology has the potential to support the growth of a circular economy around plastics, while positioning the Sultanate as a pioneer in plastic waste management globally, says Prof Dr Najah al Mhanna, Head of the Engineering Department at German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech).

“Leading petrochemical and plastic manufacturing is the goal of many oil producing countries. Therefore, finding a circular solution for the plastic waste will enable Oman to set an example in waste management as a key factor in mitigating the adverse effects of landfilling and the emission from incineration,” said the researcher.

“Converting plastic waste into fuel will provide an opportunity for plastic management in Oman by exploring fuel technology, while examining the potential uses and applications of the produced fuel. Consequently, our work focuses on developing a novel and innovative process that provides a technical solution by integrating processes and energy. It will address one of the most persisting environmental problems in Oman and in the world. The process will open up the opportunity to recycle a million tonnes of plastic waste generated in Oman. Thus, the technique has great potential to be commercialised.”

In August, GUtech signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Oman Oil and Orpic Group — the Sultanate’s integrated energy and petrochemicals powerhouse — to explore, among other objectives, the potential for producing ‘green fuel’ from plastic waste.

When the Group’s multibillion-dollar Liwa Plastics scheme enters commercial operation early next year, production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) is projected to soar to 1.4 million tons – an upsurge that makes the pursuit of circular solutions into plastic waste mitigation even more imperative, say experts.

According to be’ah, the Sultanate’s solid waste management flagship, plastics account for as much as 20 per cent of the estimated two million tons of municipal waste generated across the country every year. However, recycling alone does not provide an all-encompassing solution to the problem of plastic waste, given the many types of plastics that are not easily and cost-competitively recyclable, says Dr Al Muhanna.

“Today’s recycling infrastructure and technologies (eg, mechanical recycling and chemical transformation to chemical products) do not address the challenge of processing diverse types of plastic waste. For instance, mechanical recycling requires the plastic waste to be sorted and reducted before it can be used in the production of lower value products (eg, carpet fibres, bags, clothes, and so on). This process does not serve as an actual recycling solution. It merely adds one more production step that has no recycling benefit after use. Likewise, if polyvinyl chloride (PVC) contaminates (less than 0.01 per cent) the PET recycling stream, the resin product becomes yellowish, brittle and eventually degradable.”

The joint GUtech – Oman Oil and Orpic Group initiative envisions the application of pyrolysis technology to convert plastic waste into fuel. Pyrolysis is described as the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere.

Pyrolysis is ideal for handling the complex stream of mixed plastic wastes, thereby eliminating the need for sorting of the wastes, which in turn contributes to the overall feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the ‘Plastic Waste to Fuel’ process, says the researcher.

Importantly, pyrolysis of plastic waste results in petroleum fuels that can be used in other applications, notably as a source of energy or as feedstock in the production of chemicals, according to Dr Al Muhanna.
‘Plastic Waste to Fuel’ project has major benefits for Oman
Additionally, gas streams (propane, ethane and methane) can be recycled back to produce heat for the process, while the liquid fuel can be further processed to meet the specs stipulated for transport fuels in the Sultanate.
The only solid emerging from process is char, which is pure carbon, he added.
  • Oman
  • Plastic Waste
  • Fuel
  • Convertion
  • Environment
  • Economic
  • Technology
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