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Junk Energy

Japanese firm develops technology to turn trash into cash...

Japan Energy Corp., which operates under Nippon Mining Holdings Inc., has developed a practical way to recover naphtha and kerosene from oil derived from waste plastic.

In a special 200kl tank at its Mizushima refinery, the company will process waste plastic oil - procured from two firms that specialize in the field - with a method called hydrotreating, removing sulfur and other impurities and obtaining a substance that is the precursor to naphtha. This substance can be refined with the same equipment used for petroleum-derived intermediates.

The company plans to make a business from the new method starting in April, shipping the naphtha to petrochemical manufacturers. It is investing some 200 million yen (US$1.9 million) for the processing equipment.

In the first year the company will handle only around 1,500kl of waste plastic oil, which is almost insignificant compared with the total volume of crude oil it processes. But over the next 10 years the company plans to increase the amount to around 80,000kl and generate annual sales of 1 billion yen, making the line of business profitable.

Japan generates some 10 million tons of waste plastic every year.

Although two-thirds is recycled into new plastics or used as a fuel for power generation, the remaining one-third is simply buried, and space is running out. Thus, the new technology will help advance the plastic-recycling effort in Japan.