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Publication numberUS20030127310 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/041,108
Publication dateJul 10, 2003
Filing dateJan 7, 2002
Priority dateJan 7, 2002
Publication number041108, 10041108, US 2003/0127310 A1, US 2003/127310 A1, US 20030127310 A1, US 20030127310A1, US 2003127310 A1, US 2003127310A1, US-A1-20030127310, US-A1-2003127310, US2003/0127310A1, US2003/127310A1, US20030127310 A1, US20030127310A1, US2003127310 A1, US2003127310A1
InventorsDonald Lemmons, Richard Sheu
Original AssigneeLemmons Donald W., Sheu Richard William
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and system for extracting hydrocarbon fuel products from waste material
US 20030127310 A1
Abstract
A method and system for extracting hydrocarbon fuel products from waste material provides extraction of usable fuel components from waste plastic materials and waste materials such as oil contaminated materials and soils. The materials (or hydrocarbon portion thereof) are liquified and introduced to a chamber where the liquid material is agitated and a negative relative pressure (vacuum) is applied. The liquid is maintained at a substantially constant temperature and the vacuum draws the off-gas hydrocarbon products out for condensation and further processing, while unconverted char is removed to an ash dump. An auger feed unit with agitator buckets is used to propel the char through a feed while agitating the liquid to enhance the rate of gas removal.
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Claims(25)
What is claimed is:
1. A system for extracting usable hydrocarbon fuel pre-products from waste material, comprising:
a process chamber for receiving said waste material, said waste material having been heated until said fuel pre-products are in a liquid form;
a heater for heating said process chamber to a substantially constant temperature, whereby said fuel pre-products are converted to gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products; and
a vacuum whereby said gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products are extracted from said liquid fuel pre-products by reducing a vapor pressure of said fuel products, thereby promoting off-gassing from said liquid fuel pre-products.
2. The system of claim 1, further comprising an agitator for agitating said liquid fuel pre-products, whereby said off-gassing is further promoted.
3. The system of claim 1, further comprising a melting chamber for heating said fuel pre-products to produce said liquid fuel pre-products prior to introduction to said process chamber.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein said melting chamber is heated to a temperature substantially equal to 585 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. The system of claim 1, wherein said process chamber is heated to a temperature substantially equal to 850 degrees fahrenheit.
6. The system of claim 1, wherein said process chamber has a continuous feed, wherein said waste material is received at a first end, said gaseous hydrocarbon fuel components are removed through said vacuum system and a remainder of said waste material is ejected at a second end.
7. The system of claim 6, wherein said process chamber comprises:
an auger for feeding said waste material through said process chamber; and
an auger housing for enclosing said auger, wherein a drive system is coupled to said auger for rotating said auger to feed said waste material through said process chamber.
8. The system of claim 7, wherein said auger further comprises agitator buckets attached to a blade of said auger for agitating said liquid fuel pre-products, whereby said off-gassing is further promoted.
9. The system of claim 7, wherein a portion of said auger is included in a melting chamber for heating said fuel pre-products to produce said liquid fuel pre-products prior to introduction to said process chamber, said melting chamber auger portion being heated to a lower temperature than a temperature of the process chamber auger portion.
10. The system of claim 9, further comprising a feed system for feeding said waste material into said melting chamber, said feed system comprising:
a feed hopper coupled to said process chamber, whereby said waste material is introduced to said system; and
a feed drive for compressing said waste material and introducing said compressed waste material to said process chamber.
11. The system of claim 10, wherein said feed drive is a feed auger.
12. The system of claim 1, wherein said heater comprises a pressure chamber disposed around said process chamber, whereby hot air is circulated to heat said process chamber.
13. The system of claim 9, wherein said pressure chamber comprises a:
first cylinder enclosing said process chamber, said first cylinder having perforations though a wall of said cylinder for diffusing heat from an inner wall to an outer wall of said first cylinder for providing a uniform temperature at said process chamber; and
a second cylinder enclosing said first cylinder, said second cylinder including a plurality of pipes disposed radially between an outer wall of said second cylinder and an inner wall of said first cylinder, whereby heated air may pass from said outer wall of said second cylinder to said process chamber.
14. The system of claim 1, wherein said heater is a closed-system air heater, wherein said air is recirculated around said process chamber.
15. The system of claim 14, comprising multiple process chambers coupled to said heater.
16. The system of claim 15, wherein a remainder of said waste material from each of said multiple process chambers is fed through an additional process chamber coupled to said heater for removing any remaining hydrocarbon fuel products from said remainder.
17. A system for extracting usable hydrocarbon fuel pre-products from waste material, comprising:
means for liquifying said hydrocarbon fuel pre-products;
means for heating said hydrocarbon fuel pre-products to form gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products; and
means for continuously removing said gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products so that said hydrocarbon fuel pre-products will continue to off-gas.
18. The system of claim 17, further comprising means for agitating said liquid hydrocarbon fuel products to promote said off-gassing.
19. The system of claim 17, further comprising means for removing a remainder of said waste material from said liquid hydrocarbon fuel products.
20. The system of claim 19, wherein said means for removing said remainder further comprises means for agitating said liquid hydrocarbon fuel products to promote said off-gassing.
21. A method for extracting usable hydrocarbon fuel pre-products from waste material, comprising:
liquifying said usable hydrocarbon fuel pre-products to form a liquid;
heating said liquid until said liquid off-gasses gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products; and
removing said gaseous hydrocarbon fuel products by a vacuum system.
22. The method of claim 21, further comprising agitating said liquid to promote said off-gassing.
23. The method of claim 22, further comprising the step of rotating an auger within said process chamber, and wherein said agitating is performed by said rotating, and wherein said auger further moves a remainder of said waste material out of said liquid.
24. The method of claim 21, wherein said waste material is a mixture of oil waste with soil, and wherein said liquifying liquifies only said oil waste.
25. The method of claim 21, wherein said waste material is a plastic material and wherein said liqufying liquifies said plastic material.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates generally to recyclable materials recovery systems, and more specifically, to a method and system for extracting useable hydrocarbon fuel products from waste material by conversion of fuel pre-products to gas.
  • [0003]
    2. Background of the Invention
  • [0004]
    A significant amount of waste material produced by residential and commercial facilities comprises plastics. Unless a recovery and/or recycling system is implemented, these plastics ultimately end up in landfills or are incinerated, producing undesirable gaseous pollutant products and ash. Some plastics may be recycled and used in part to form new plastic products, but it is possible to revert plastics to constituent chemical components or other compounds and re-use these compounds to produce fuel or for other manufacturing purposes.
  • [0005]
    Other waste materials, such as oilfield sludge (a mixture of tar, sand and dirt) absorbent materials that have been used to clean up oil spills and byproducts of other manufacturing and refining processes may contain useable hydrocarbon fuel components, also. It would be desirable to be able to process these materials in the same manner as the above-mentioned plastic waste material.
  • [0006]
    In particular, it is possible to produce a diesel-like fuel from hydrocarbon compounds that may be extracted from plastics and other waste. At high temperatures, the compounds are a gaseous mixture containing various hydrocarbons, aromatics and other gases. The gases may then be further separated and processed by distillation or other refining means to produce various usable fractions. In general, the resulting liquid condensed from the extracted gases cannot be burned in a diesel engine, as the spectrum of hydrocarbons produced from a mixture of plastics, or a solitary plastics contains a high fraction of “hot” components such as octane that will destroy a diesel engine unless the fraction is reduced to tolerable levels via a refining process. In general, all of the product should be useable, as octane can be used to make a gasoline fuel and lighter components may be “cracked” to form propane and synthetic natural gas fuels.
  • [0007]
    Several existing methods and systems have been proposed to revert plastic materials to gas from which fuel may be produced. In general, these systems fall into two categories: low temperature vapor extraction methods and high temperature pyrolytic conversion methods. The pyrolytic conversion methods require high energy input and generate gaseous fuel products such as butane and methane which require compression and large volume storage per BTU. The efficiency of conversion is very low, as the long-chain hydrocarbons present in plastics are converted to very short-chain hydrocarbon fuel components, wasting the energy available in the longer chains already present in plastics and other waste material.
  • [0008]
    Vapor extraction methods in the existing art have a low production throughput and are prone to a build-up of cross-linked polymers that must be removed from the equipment and a build-up of heavy hydrocarbon components that are not effectively removed from the system. They also are susceptible to environmental conditions such as barometric pressure and ambient temperature. These drawbacks have made existing vapor extractio
  • [0009]
    systems not practical for both economic and production volume reasons.
  • [0010]
    Therefore, it is desirable to provide a method and system for extracting usable hydrocarbon fuel products from waste material in an energy efficient manner having high production throughput.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0011]
    The above objective of providing efficient and high-throughput extraction of useable hydrocarbon fuel components from waste material is achieved in a method and system. The method and system introduce waste material to a melting chamber having a substantially constant temperature and a liquid fuel pre-product is generated. The liquid is introduced to a process chamber at a substantially constant higher temperature and a negative relative pressure (vacuum) is applied to cause the liquid to off-gas the useable hydrocarbon fuel components in gaseous form. The liquid is agitated as well as heated to promote off-gassing. The melting chamber and process chamber may be a staged feed system having two different portions and an auger may be used to feed the waste material through the chambers. The remainder of the waste material is ejected at the far end of the process chamber and may be combined with the output of other chambers and re-processed for further extraction of useable fuel components.
  • [0012]
    The foregoing and other objectives, features, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following, more particular, description of the preferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0013]
    [0013]FIG. 1 is a simplified pictorial diagram depicting a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0014]
    [0014]FIG. 2 is a detailed pictorial diagram depicting a system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0015]
    [0015]FIG. 3 is a pictorial diagram depicting details of the processing of plastic material within process chamber 12 of FIG. 2.
  • [0016]
    [0016]FIG. 4A is a pictorial diagram depicting a detailed side view of pressure chamber 19 of FIG. 2.
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 4B is a pictorial diagram depicting a detailed end view of pressure chamber 19 of FIG. 2.
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 5 is a pictorial diagram depicting details of the auger unit 27 of FIG. 2.
  • [0019]
    [0019]FIG. 6 is a pictorial diagram depicting a system in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS
  • [0020]
    Referring now to the figures and in particular to FIG. 1, a simplified depiction of a system for extracting hydrocarbon fuel products from waste material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown. Waste material is introduced to a hopper 1 and is liquified in a liquification chamber 2. Liqiufication chamber 2 can accept plastic material, which is generally shredded and compressed. The plastic material is melted to form a liquid 3 by heating liqification chamber 2 to a temperature substantially equal to 585 degrees Fahrnheit. The above-stated temperature is chosen as a minimum temperature to reduce a plastic mixture containing typical recyclable plastics to a liquid and a maximum temperature to avoid forming a cross-linked solid. Cross-linked polymers generally have a higher melting point than recyclable plastic waste and will not readily convert to hydrocarbon fuel components via the system once they have been produced by over-temperature. Therefore, the temperature of liquification chamber 2 should be carefully controlled so that no solid plastics remain and so that none of the plastic material becomes cross-linked.
  • [0021]
    Liquification chamber 2 is included to ensure that solid plastic material is not introduced to further processing, which will be performed at a higher temperature. The higher temperature processing will form cross-linked chains within any solid plastic material. Processing liquified plastics provides a mechanism for avoiding the overheating of solid plastics and thus the cross-linking of the plastics' hydrocarbon chains. A pump 5 moves the liquified plastics 3 to a process chamber 4, where the liquified plastics (which contain hydrocarbon fuel pre-products) are further heated to a temperature substantially equal to 850 degrees Fahrenheit and are permitted to off-gas. The above-stated temperature is a maximum temperature chosen to cause the liquified plastic to off-gas rapidly, while avoiding “cracking” of the bydrocarbon fuel products such as decane to shorter-chain hydrocarbon components, as is done in pyrolytic converters. The higher temperature of process chamber 4 is generally above the flash point of the gaseous fuel components that are being extracted, and therefore the system must substantially prevent the introduction of air within process chamber 4 (and possibly liquification chamber 2). Otherwise the fuel products may combust in the chamber, creating a hazard and wasting the fuel components extracted.
  • [0022]
    Some off-gassing will also occur in liquification chamber 2 and these gases may be removed by a vent 8A, but primarily, the gases (which contain hydrocarbon fuel products) will be extracted via a vacuum pump 8. Vacuum pump 8 is included to remove the gases produced by the off-gassing liquid plastic material 7. Without vacuum pump 8, insufficient gas will exit the system, and the heavier vapor components (such as parrafin) will remain in the system. Additionally, the effects of ambient barometric pressure and temperature on the system are eliminated. A system without negative relative pressure applied to the process chamber will not remove heavier gaseous hydrocarbon fuel components when the outside temperature falls too low. As a result, continued “cracking” of the hyrdocarbon fuel products occurs and under certain ambient conditions, the output will be only lighter components that cannot condense to form a liquid fuel. Additionally, the overall output of a non-vacuum driven system under the above-described conditions will be reduced to a small fraction of the potential system production.
  • [0023]
    Once the gases are removed, they are introduced to a processing system 9 for condensation of heavier fuel components, further refining of heaviest fuel components and potential extraction and storage of lighter fuel components. But, the lighter fuel components are useful for combustion heating of process chamber 4 and liquification chamber 2 and will generally be used for this purpose.
  • [0024]
    The present invention may also be adapted (or used in an existing form) for the processing of other material containing usable hydrocarbon fuel pre-products. Drill cuttings or other waste from oil drilling sites (which is a mixture of sand or dirt and crude oil) may be heated to extract the contained hydrocarbon fuel pre-products and off-gas fuel components. Optionally, liquification chamber may not be required for this type of processing (if the waste material does not contain polymers which will become cross-linked) and systems may be specially adapted in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.
  • [0025]
    Referring now to FIG. 2, a plastic reversion system 10, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is shown. A process chamber 12 is formed from a cylindrical pipe with an auger 11 disposed within and passes through within a heating unit 27. A separate liquification chamber is not implemented within system 10 but is provided by heating a first portion of auger 11 and process chamber 12 (before entering heating unit 27) to a lower temperature substantially equal to 585 degrees Fahrenheit for the first section of the process chamber 12 via electric heat sheath 28. Auger 11 is rotated by a drive system 15 at a substantially constant rate. Plastic material chips are introduced to process chamber 12 from a feed hopper 13 and a feed auger 14 may be used to compress the plastic material (and optionally grind the plastic chips from larger portions) for introduction to process chamber 12 under pressure, eliminating introduction of air. Auger 11 drives the plastic material through process chamber 12 at a substantially constant rate. Both auger 11 and feed auger 14 may be driven by an electric motor and gearbox combination, a hydraulic motor or pneumatic motor depending on requirements of the particular system application. Process chamber 12 is generally a metal pipe, and the diameter of auger 11 and process chamber 12 are determined by throughput requirements. The length of auger 11 and angle of the auger flights are chosen to determine the “dwell time” (the time the plastic material take to travel through process chamber 12), which is a critical factor in reverting the plastic material to gas.
  • [0026]
    Process chamber 12 is heated by a heating system comprising a heater 16 for heating air, ducting 17 for delivering the heated air to ports 18 within heating unit 27 that are coupled directly to a pressure chamber 19 that encloses a portion of process chamber 12. Electic heat sheath 28 may be replaced by a heating system porting air from heater 16 or a second heater, so that the lower liquification temperature may be maintained over the first segment of process chamber 12 that acts as a liquification chamber. Air exits heating unit 27 through ports 20 and is recirculated via a duct 22 and blower 21, returning to heater 16. The heating system produces a high pressure air stream around process chamber 12. The air is heated to raise the temperature of the portion of auger 11 and process chamber 12 within heating unit 27 to approximately 850 degrees fahrenheit.
  • [0027]
    The plastic material undergoes phase changes as it is driven around the heated auger 11, and near the end of auger 11 exit pipes 23 are connected to remove the gaseous mixture produced within process chamber 12 and at the end of auger opposite feed hopper 13. The gas mixture removed at exit pipe 23 is a mixture of many different compounds and gaseous elements and may be condensed, refined or otherwise processed to yield useful products. In general, a very clean-burning fuel product may be refined from the gaseous mixture. Yield output is approximately one gallon of distillate from eight to nine pounds of plastic material. Waste material 25 from the process, called “char” or ash is dropped from a lower exit pipe 24 to a char pit 26 for disposal.
  • [0028]
    A vacuum system 29 applies a negative relative pressure to process chamber 12, assisted by an “air dam” that is created by compressed plastic material at a point along auger 11 before the plastic material has reached a completely liquid state. Vacuum system 29 generates a suction that draws against the air dam, generating a negative relative pressure throughout process chamber 12, which aids in the conversion of the plastic material from liquid to gas and increases the yield of the system to a practical production level.
  • [0029]
    Referring now to FIG. 3, the processing of plastic material within the system of FIG. 2 is depicted with reference to a detailed representation of process chamber 12. Feed auger 14 compresses plastic chips from feed hopper 14 and introduces them to auger 11 within process chamber 12. The rotation of auger 11 moves the plastic material, which is still in solid form, and heat is transferred from heat sheath 28 to auger 11 and process chamber 12 to melt the plastic material.
  • [0030]
    At the end of length L1, the plastic material has become liquified and pools on the bottom of process chamber. It is within length L1 that the approximate location of air dam lies (prior to complete liquification), and a negative relative pressure will be exerted on the plastic material ahead of this location. In length L2, the plastic material becomes completely liquified and within length L3, the material is converted to gaseous form with some solid waste product remaining (char). At the end of process chamber 12, the char are ejected for disposal or further processing. The gases are removed for processing by vents located within length L3 and coupled to a vacuum system.
  • [0031]
    While the above description and illustrations depict a process having generally defined phase boundaries and temperatures and the description suggests uniform composition, in practice, the plastic material introduced to feed hopper 13 may comprise many different plastic materials, and the mixture may vary substantially over time. Therefore, different temperatures may be used and the material within process chamber 12 may transition to liquid form at varying locations. But, it has been found that for a well-mixed feed stock, the behavior of the plastic material is very homogeneous, approximating the behavior of an average material.
  • [0032]
    Critical to the operation of the system is that the rate of feed and temperature within process chamber 12 be carefully controlled. If the temperature of liquification portion of process chamber 12 is too low, or the rate of feed is too high the plastics will not be completely melted before reaching length L3 and the solid polymer materials will cross-link, forming a very tough product that will not gassify, and may not move through the process chamber at all, jamming system 10, or producing excessive waste at the char output. If the temperature of the liquification portion of process chamber is too high, the material will cross-link rather than melt.
  • [0033]
    If the temperature of process chamber 12 within heating unit 27 is too low, or the rate of feed too high, little or no off-gassing will occur, producing excessive waste at the char output and a low yield at the gas output. The plastics reverted by system 10 generally begin to off-gas at a temperature higher than 400 degrees fahrenheit, so the operating temperature of heating unit 27 (850 F.) ensures that the process temperature will be high enough to revert the plastics, but low enough to avoid cracking of the gases that have been extracted. In general, the rate of feed and temperature may be selected based on the materials being processed, average characteristics and other criteria to maximize throughput, conversion efficiency or both.
  • [0034]
    Referring now to FIGS. 4A and 4B, details of pressure chamber section 19A within pressure chamber 19 of FIG. 1 are depicted. FIG. 3A is a side view of a pressure chamber section 19A (there are three such sections making up pressure chamber 19 of FIG. 1). Pressure chamber section 19A comprises an inner pipe 41 and an outer pipe 40. The cylindrical wall of inner pipe 41 is perforated (to avoid the formation of “hot spots”) and is connected to outer pipe 40 by a plurality of pipes that protrude through to the outer wall of outer pipe 40, supporting inner pipe 41 along with process chamber 12 (FIG. 1). A port 18A is directed at pressure chamber 19 to supply heated air around pressure chamber 19 to heat process chamber 12. FIG. 4B depicts a side view of pressure chamber 19, showing the orientation of pipes 42 and port 18A, as well as the location of perforations 43.
  • [0035]
    Referring now to FIG. 5, details of heating systems within the system of FIG. 2 are shown. Heat sheath 28 is an electric heater coupled to a power system 52, but may be replaced with a air circulated gas system as used in heating unit 27.
  • [0036]
    Heating unit 27 contains ports 18A and 18B that supply heated air to chambers 50, heating pressure chamber sections 19A and thus process chamber 12. Ports 20 return air to the heating system forming a closed loop through chambers 50. Port 18A differs from the other two ports 18B in that the outlet location is disposed slightly further along process chamber 12, providing more heat toward the end of length L1 of FIG. 3.
  • [0037]
    Referring now to FIG. 6 a system in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the invention is shown. In the alternative embodiment depicted, six process chambers 61A are placed in parallel and all pass through a common heating unit 62, providing more efficient use of the heating system. The char outputs of process chambers 61A are combined in a piping manifold 64 and are introduced to a secondary process chamber 61B, that extracts any remaining gaseous fuel products. The char output of process chamber 61B is then removed for discard or use. While the illustration shows a flattened parallel construction, in practice, the system may be formed with process chambers 61A arranged so that their cross sections form a ring, or they may be closely packed to improve coupling to heater 62 and reduce the exterior size of heater 62.
  • [0038]
    While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and other changes in form, and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
Patent Citations
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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7893307Feb 22, 2011Smith David GApparatus and process for converting feed material into reusable hydrocarbons
US8197675Jun 12, 2012Wilmer Lee BriggsProcess for removing contaminants from hydrocarbon obtained from recycled materials
US20080202983 *Feb 22, 2008Aug 28, 2008Smith David GApparatus and process for converting feed material into reusable hydrocarbons
US20090227825 *Apr 10, 2009Sep 10, 2009Wilmer Lee BriggsProcess for removing contaminants from hydrocarbon obtained from recycled materials
Classifications
U.S. Classification202/96, 202/99, 422/232, 202/118, 422/198, 202/265, 202/262, 422/224
International ClassificationC10B47/44, C10G1/02
Cooperative ClassificationC10G1/02, C10B47/44
European ClassificationC10B47/44, C10G1/02
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jan 28, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: MATERIAL CONVERSION CORP., WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:LEMMONS, DONALD W.;SHEU, RICHARD WILLIAM;REEL/FRAME:015626/0584
Effective date: 20020102