The Plastics Problem

Solvable or not? From what I've been reading, opponents are being very vocal, politicians are being pushed to ban single-use plastics (commendable) but... demand is growing and will continue growing for at least the next ten years. The surprising thing for me was superlow global rates of recycling, especially in the U.S. Why is that? Here are some figures.

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why not load it into containers with boosters and shoot it into the sun? that may sound dumb to some, but really it would be incinerated, reduce cost of recycling, keep demand up for petrochemicals...win win....and no, i am not saying start polluting space....

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Have thought about the cost of shooting trash to the sun!

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56 minutes ago, Marina Schwarz said:

Solvable or not? From what I've been reading, opponents are being very vocal, politicians are being pushed to ban single-use plastics (commendable) but... demand is growing and will continue growing for at least the next ten years. The surprising thing for me was superlow global rates of recycling, especially in the U.S. Why is that? Here are some figures.

Marina,

People seem to think that recyclers are people, who out of the goodness of their hearts, take in other peoples garbage and make it disappear.

The fact is that recycling companies are in it for profit, same as any other firm in a capitalistic system. Yes, they'll collect your garbage (after you segregate it for them), they will recycle what they can for profit, but that is never even close to the tonnage collected....hence the international waste trade.

I am with you 100% on getting rid of single use plastic bags and bottles. This can be legislated and mandated, but the most effective and long term method is education and awareness. Look at the clean-up of American roads and highways since about 1950...it works!

The LTO oil that America is now pumping out is not a good feedstock for the petrochemical industry and is problematic for American refineries to process, which is why it is exported. Granted the heavier crudes desired by US refineries are good for making plastics, but they are also good for producing all of the other hydrocarbon based products we enjoy.

Just a note, re-use is always better than recycled...where possible.

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9 minutes ago, Douglas Buckland said:

(after you segregate it for them)

For some reason I was left with the impression that this is the root of the problem. Recycling companies can't recycle what you don't give them to recycle. Not true?

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True, but it is also true that they can not recycle ALL that you do give them!

Segregating your garbage and wheeling it to the curb does NOT mean that it is actually recycled or disappears. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, but it may not be doing a damn thing for the environment!

Granted, whatever percentage of the collected garbage that CAN be recycled for a profit is processed...and that is better than nothing, but the rest simply goes to the landfill or shipped overseas.

Take a drive around any suburban community that mandates recycling on collection day. Get an idea of the volume collected for ONE week, in ONE community, then multiply this volume by the number of similar communities in the country. This would be the national volume collected in ONE week!

The volume is staggering and we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we are actually recycling this material continuously.

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That's a really scary thought. And hopefully a sobering one.

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It is just reality on a global scale. Getting rid of 'single use' plastics and requiring each country to address their own garbage would be a pretty good start.

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Yeah, it would. Only a total single-use ban will make life a lot more expensive for those most vulnerable, unfortunately. Not talking about straws and crap like that but about food packaging. Although, I don't know, paper maybe the answer for a while until someone comes up with a cheap and non-forest-threatening alternative.

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If we could start off by addressing the single use plastic bags and bottles while we are addressing the more difficult issues such as food packaging, it would still be a worthy start. It is just silly to think that we have the will or the appetite to address all these issues at the same time.

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Just for the record, all plastics, and specifically "single use," can be converted into gasoline.  You can set up a Converter in each community and landfill nothing.  And you can toss in just about anything else that is carbon-cased into the Converter and end up with the world's best gasoline (or diesel, or jetfuel), which will burn far cleaner than the stuff cracked at an oil refinery. 

Society does not do this because society is lazy and managers, specifically government municipal managers, are mendacious and short-sighted.  Toss in that venture capitalists tend to be not very sharp either, and you have this mix of people that slide towards treating garbage as garbage, instead of another valuable resource to go exploit.  

Don't landfill it, sell it!  To a Converter.  (And P.S.  your gasoline from single-use plastics stream would be about $1.10 per gallon.  Put up a Converter in your back yard and sell that gasoline to your neighbors, make yourself the most popular guy on the block.) 

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7 hours ago, cbrasher1 said:

why not load it into containers with boosters and shoot it into the sun? that may sound dumb to some, but really it would be incinerated, reduce cost of recycling, keep demand up for petrochemicals...win win....and no, i am not saying start polluting space....

At about $10,000 / kg into LEO I'm sure this will be a sure fire winner............

 

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32 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

Society does not do this because society is lazy and managers, specifically government municipal managers, are mendacious and short-sighted.

You hit the nail on the head!!!! Very easy to turn plastics of either single use or multiple use into energy. Burn it like coal and put in scrubbers and the problem will self heal.  My particular landfill takes in transfer waste from Chicago and St. Louis and is filling rapidly. Issue is if we start to grind all waste to powder many Union jobs will be gone and therein lies the problem. 

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7 hours ago, Douglas Buckland said:

 

The LTO oil that America is now pumping out is not a good feedstock for the petrochemical industry and is problematic for American refineries to process, which is why it is exported. Granted the heavier crudes desired by US refineries are good for making plastics, but they are also good for producing all of the other hydrocarbon based products we enjoy.

 

Say what?  Are you kidding?  Apparently you aren't aware of the value of naptha and ethane as feedstocks for polyethylene and polypropylene production.  The wet gas we produce is loaded with ethane which is fetching premium prices these days.  The LTO is high in naptha the other desired petrochemical feedstock.  I have to wonder how you don't know this and yet pretend to contribute knowledgeably here.

Your comment is exactly backwards.  Read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrochemical

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9 hours ago, Douglas Buckland said:

Marina,

People seem to think that recyclers are people, who out of the goodness of their hearts, take in other peoples garbage and make it disappear.

The fact is that recycling companies are in it for profit, same as any other firm in a capitalistic system. Yes, they'll collect your garbage (after you segregate it for them), they will recycle what they can for profit, but that is never even close to the tonnage collected....hence the international waste trade.

I am with you 100% on getting rid of single use plastic bags and bottles. This can be legislated and mandated, but the most effective and long term method is education and awareness. Look at the clean-up of American roads and highways since about 1950...it works!

The LTO oil that America is now pumping out is not a good feedstock for the petrochemical industry and is problematic for American refineries to process, which is why it is exported. Granted the heavier crudes desired by US refineries are good for making plastics, but they are also good for producing all of the other hydrocarbon based products we enjoy.

Just a note, re-use is always better than recycled...where possible.

I think you are a bit offbase about US light crudes, condensates and ngls and gas, they are a perfect fit for petchem feedstock and some experts say that they are even better and "cleaner" than conventional petchem feedstocks, hence the massive billions and billions of dollars of investments along the USGC and countries buying up the US exports for feedstock for their petchems and value added products. About 5-6mil bpd of US shale oil is produced and how much is exported? US refiners have invested billions of $$$ to expand their capacities and refining capabilities to be able to process the lighter crudes and condensates being produced.

Recycling in the US has been a disaster and more of the companies that jumped on the bandwagon are no longer in business, recycling worked well for some waste streams not so good for others. I think there was a big big misunderstanding by the public about recycling in the US and in Europe when the "fad" was getting started. It could have been done better and managed better.

Overall, producers and consumers of plastics are equally at fault for the pollution that has wreaked havoc across the globe, convenience and low cost without responsibility.

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10 hours ago, Marina Schwarz said:

Solvable or not? From what I've been reading, opponents are being very vocal, politicians are being pushed to ban single-use plastics (commendable) but... demand is growing and will continue growing for at least the next ten years. The surprising thing for me was superlow global rates of recycling, especially in the U.S. Why is that? Here are some figures.

The problem of single use plastics can be solved, consumers will probably pay more..are they willing to? but in the manufacturing cycle it can be done and has been done.

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16 hours ago, Douglas Buckland said:

Marina,

People seem to think that recyclers are people, who out of the goodness of their hearts, take in other peoples garbage and make it disappear.

The fact is that recycling companies are in it for profit, same as any other firm in a capitalistic system. Yes, they'll collect your garbage (after you segregate it for them), they will recycle what they can for profit, but that is never even close to the tonnage collected....hence the international waste trade.

I am with you 100% on getting rid of single use plastic bags and bottles. This can be legislated and mandated, but the most effective and long term method is education and awareness. Look at the clean-up of American roads and highways since about 1950...it works!

The LTO oil that America is now pumping out is not a good feedstock for the petrochemical industry and is problematic for American refineries to process, which is why it is exported. Granted the heavier crudes desired by US refineries are good for making plastics, but they are also good for producing all of the other hydrocarbon based products we enjoy.

Just a note, re-use is always better than recycled...where possible.

Refinery of the future less focused on fuels

The future may or may not bring flying cars, robot servants and immortality, but it’s bringing exciting changes to the business of refining petroleum. Those changes are opportunities to earn higher profits for plants that recognize how to leverage existing technologies to improve flexibility, integration and communication.

Integrated refineries and petrochemical plants are the “Refineries of the Future,” said Carrie Eppelheimer, vice president of strategy and marketing, Honeywell UOP, in her session at Honeywell Users Group Americas 2019, this week in Dallas. Integrating petrochemical capabilities helps refineries “Get the maximum value out of every drop of crude oil, and respond to market drivers.”

Those drivers include a new regulatory environment. On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will implement a new regulation for a 0.50% global sulfur cap for marine fuels. The industry expects this could drive the price of high sulfur fuel oil $20 to $40 per barrel lower than the price of crude oil.

 

Instead, “High-sulfur bunker fuel is a feedstock we can convert to higher value products,” said Eppelheimer. “Should we convert it to gasoline or diesel? The answer is obvious when one price is higher, but what if both are declining? The best answer may be to convert it to petrochemicals—ethylene, propylene, etc.”

Integration on the rise

However, the United States lags behind other countries in integrating refining and petrochemical complexes. “Today, refiners can continue to export higher sulfur, higher benzene, and higher RVP gasoline to Africa and Latin America,” Eppelheimer said. But the export market is always changing because, as small economies grow, and fuel demand reaches the level to support a 250,000 bbl/day refinery, the country usually invests in local fuel refining and production. Often these plants also produce petrochemicals.

Integrated refining and petrochemical plants are expanding in the U.S. as well. There’s still a demand for exported gasoline, and more refineries are adding production for propylene and ethylene, as well as and naphtha for export. “We used to have separate facilities and ship between them, but now we’re seeing more integrated plants.”  “This trend isn’t just a paper exercise. The plants are real. Five years ago for example, only 15% of Honeywell UOP’s CCR Platformers were designed to produce petrochemicals. The rest were designed to produce fuel. In 2018, over 65% were designed for petrochemicals.” “We use six metrics to drive higher efficiencies in refineries,” Eppelheimer said. These include: 

  1. Carbon: "Use every molecule of carbon processed in the plant.”
  2. Hydrogen: "Minimize the number of times we add or remove it” from a hydrocarbon.
  3. Utilities: "Using less energy saves money and reduces the CO2 footprint.”
  4. Emissions: Greenhouse gases, particulate emissions, SOx, NOx, and more.
  5. Water: "It’s a scarce resource. In the Middle East and India, they often must desalinate the water, and even in the U.S., there are shortages due to regional droughts.”
  6. Capital: Maximize return.

From refinery to petrochemical in three steps

“We look at the six efficiencies and optimize them for you,” Eppelheimer said of Honeywell UOP’s work with oil and gas companies. For example, a typical delayed coker or FCC refinery may chose a phased approach to get from gasoline to petrochem. The first phase is to replace the delayed coker with a slurry hydrocracker. “The product value goes from $60/ton of coke to $850/ton of petrochemicals. And you reduce water consumption because you don’t need it to cut the coke out.”

Next, add an aromatics complex to produce paraxylene, benzene and toluene. “Finally, go into propane dehydrogenization and steam cracking,” Eppelheimer said. “I like to think of the propane dehydrogenation unit as a hydrogen machine that just happens to produce propylene. This provides hydrogen to feed back into the hydrocracking processes.”

With these additions under Honeywell UOP guidance, a refinery can move from $20/bbl to $50/bbl net cash margin, Eppelheimer said. The facility can become flexible (can change product mix), integrated (giving high margins and value), and connected.

Connecting the plant is particularly important. “Some 50% of skilled workers will retire within the next seven years,” Eppelheimer said. That means fewer skilled workers even as increasingly integrated operations become more complex. “Our answer is to upload your data to a secure cloud environment and compare actual operating data to an optimal digital twin of your plant., This allows 24/7/365 comparison of actual to optimal performance to  identify in real time the changes you can make to maximize return. This means our incentives are aligned, so your best day is also our best day.”

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The obvious solution to excess waste plastic.is to build more waste incinerators that produce electricity. There is simply too much plastic to be recycled, not enough demand for it. 

In canada cities like calgary have entire warehouses full to the ceiling of sorted and bailed plastic. No one wants it not even for free. Politicians dont dare dump it in landfills. 

Garbage incinerators are so simple and efficient. In comes  un sorted mixed recycling, plastic cardboard metal and glass. 

Magnets grab the metal, super easy and low labour cost.

Shakers sort the heavy glass out. Simple mechanical solution.

This is where humans would pick and pick at the leftovers on conveyor belts picking out the goodies and sorting into types of plastic and paper. Soooooooo labour intensive such a money losing operation.

Dont bother with it. Burn it all. Paper and plastic together burn it all. Scrub the emissions.

The energy is dispatchable which is wonderful news for wind and solar. It compliments them instead of adding even more intermittency. And it can be labelled "green" because it's literally anything other then oil. I mean it is but it isn't because leftist logic. 

 

It's looking like canada is going this direction but I dont think the liberals have the guts to propose burning garbage. Oh the horror it's so savage. Likely the conservatives  will be handed the torch on this one. 

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21 hours ago, wrs said:

Say what?  Are you kidding?  Apparently you aren't aware of the value of naptha and ethane as feedstocks for polyethylene and polypropylene production.  The wet gas we produce is loaded with ethane which is fetching premium prices these days.  The LTO is high in naptha the other desired petrochemical feedstock.  I have to wonder how you don't know this and yet pretend to contribute knowledgeably here.

Your comment is exactly backwards.  Read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrochemical

I had exactly the same thought when I read Doug's post. I'm guessing he hadn't had his coffee yet when he wrote that. ;)

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22 hours ago, wrs said:

Say what?  Are you kidding?  Apparently you aren't aware of the value of naptha and ethane as feedstocks for polyethylene and polypropylene production.  The wet gas we produce is loaded with ethane which is fetching premium prices these days.  The LTO is high in naptha the other desired petrochemical feedstock.  I have to wonder how you don't know this and yet pretend to contribute knowledgeably here.

Your comment is exactly backwards.  Read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrochemical

It really doesn't matter what the LTO gas is rich in if you can't get it to a refinery and simply flare it, does it?

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5 minutes ago, Douglas Buckland said:

It really doesn't matter what the LTO gas is rich in if you can't get it to a refinery and simply flare it, does it?

Considering that only some of the gas is being flared, it does.  My gas is all stripped and sold.  We have signed pipeline ROWs in East Texas with Targa last year for a new NGL line from the Permian to Houston that should be complete this year.  We are negotiating another one with OneOK in the same corridor right now.  We have 5 pipelines running across our Orla section and three on the one southwest of that.  None of that was in place three to four years ago.  There shouldn't be any flaring after this year.

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On 6/18/2019 at 8:14 PM, Jan van Eck said:

Just for the record, all plastics, and specifically "single use," can be converted into gasoline.  You can set up a Converter in each community and landfill nothing.  And you can toss in just about anything else that is carbon-cased into the Converter and end up with the world's best gasoline (or diesel, or jetfuel), which will burn far cleaner than the stuff cracked at an oil refinery. 

Society does not do this because society is lazy and managers, specifically government municipal managers, are mendacious and short-sighted.  Toss in that venture capitalists tend to be not very sharp either, and you have this mix of people that slide towards treating garbage as garbage, instead of another valuable resource to go exploit.  

Don't landfill it, sell it!  To a Converter.  (And P.S.  your gasoline from single-use plastics stream would be about $1.10 per gallon.  Put up a Converter in your back yard and sell that gasoline to your neighbors, make yourself the most popular guy on the block.) 

If this is the case and it is so easy to do...then why isn't anyone doing it?

Seems to me that if you could collect free garbage, invest in a 'converter', make "the world's best gasoline" which burns cleaner than that manufactured in a refinery for about $1.10 per gallon, people would be lining up to do it! Just think of the profit margin! 

But that isn't happening, is it?

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1 minute ago, Douglas Buckland said:

But that isn't happening, is it?

Nope, it sure isn't.  Rather a shame, all things considered.

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6 minutes ago, wrs said:

Considering that only some of the gas is being flared, it does.  My gas is all stripped and sold.  We have signed pipeline ROWs in East Texas with Targa last year for a new NGL line from the Permian to Houston that should be complete this year.  We are negotiating another one with OneOK in the same corridor right now.  We have 5 pipelines running across our Orla section and three on the one southwest of that.  None of that was in place three to four years ago.  There shouldn't be any flaring after this year.

Okay, so maybe YOU are not flaring, but are you trying to convince me that flaring is not a serious issue in these shale oil basins?

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