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Thermal depolymerization


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Hi everybody, my question is; has anyone heard of thermal depolymerization and if you have, do you think it is a viable alternative method for producing fuel? Personally I think it is definitely that should be looked into and developed, and to be frank better than having to produce a hydrogen economy. I do know that one disadvantage of thermal depolymerization was that it costs too much[about 60 dollars last time I checked] to produce a barrel of oil[the equivalent of crude basically], as opposed to buying a barrel of oil at the market price.

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yes i have heard of it. alternative to current fuel. no. supplement to curent fuel yes. it is promissing. however, when we finally realize how much energy is wasted in "producing" animlals maybey we will stop that and not be in an energy crisis?

for others here are some links to get you started on the topic:


http://forums.biodieselnow.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=829 ( that is a great forum by the way)


http://www.thermaldepolymerization.org/ ( i have never actually looked at this site but you can!)

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  • 1 month later...

Why has next to noone had a look at this or commented on it? I see it as one of a few likely alternatives which together, could help us combat climate change and our dependance on crude oil extracted from the Earth.

I've added 2 more links:

Wikepedia article on it


This link explains how the proces is carried out.


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To me, this sounds like one of those things where you have to ask yourself how much energy your using to make this fuel. Similar to electric cars. Sure the car itself is cleaner, but to make that electricity a power plant had to burn who knows how many pounds of coal. You just can't get something for nothing.

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I believe the highlight of the thermal depolymerization method was destroying waste. To me, the process I read about in a previous edition of Discover Magazine seemed like a large gastrobotic process. However, it's not really gastrobotics.


I believe gastrobotics or robotics in relation to breaking down waste will create a more fuel efficient world.


If energy sources were primarily from dead beings, would this process not be a similar method, but more advanced?

...more advanced then drilling up the ground for resources?


One day people will be disposing their left-overs in a gastrobotic device. I wanted to create such a thing. I copyright the idea here and now. To tell you the truth, I couldn't stop thinking about gastrobot possibilities as I read the article. I had thought about robotics dismantiling food waste and turning it into energy for the longest time. Perhaps a year before I read the article about thermal depolymerization in Discover.


Waste breaking technologies are still advancing. They will become energy and cost efficient.

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Would I ever be able to do this thermal depolymerisation in my basement? That would be so cool. Is there anyway to include electricity in the process, like from surplus wind power when I don't need the electricity? If I used wind power for both electricity and transportation fuel then I could have a larger wind turbine, and store hydrogen and avoid having so many batteries. I'm thinking about some process combining hydrogen and sewage and other waste to produce heat plus some useful transportation fuel. The gas produced could be stored and burned in a cogen process to produce heat and electricity on windless days. The liquid fuel could be used for transportation. With two vehicles you could have a commuter running on gas (methane and hydrogen) and the other car running on liquid fuel. Bit of a pipe dream, but it is always fun to think of technologies that lend themselves to decentralization.

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The problem with wind is that it is variable, whereas what is needed is a regular source of power. To compensate however, when hydrogen fuel cell technology is ready for employment, we will be able to convert the excess electrical power into hydrogen and oxygen. We can by doing this develop stores of energy for use whendemand goes up. Who knows, maybe in the future these stores might be traded in the commodities market.


In answer to your question Prime evil, I think it would be possible to do carry out this process in your basement(how efficiently and cost effectively depending on its size:D ). What is the ideal size for a TDP plant(and the level of decentralisation) depends on various factors like transportation costs, thermodynamic efficiencies, whether there is enough organic waste locally etc. I see you also caught on to the idea of developing sores from excess wind power. I'm delighted to inform you however that i don't think this would be necessary.


As far as I know the energy required to process the feedstock is less than the total heat energy that can be produced by burning the fuel produced. In fact I know that at the plant where they were testing this process they were producing both natural gas and a petroleum mixture. The natural gas produced was used to repower the plant, and the petroleum sold.

The main problem with the process is not that it isn't energetically profitable, but it isn't economically viable at the moment on a large scale. With improvements to the process however, and a few modifications to US law concerning agricultural subsidies etc the sector could thrive. I think right now it would be economically viable because a barrel of oil on the market typically costs just below $70 at the moment. A barrel produced using the TDP process would cost $60 to make.


What we need is for politicians to have resolve, and entrepreneurs to take risks(as they always do).

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  • 6 months later...

I know is :

Thermal depolymerization (TDP) is a process for the reduction of complex organic materials (usually waste products of various sorts, often known as biomass and plastic) into light crude oil. It mimics the natural geological processes thought to be involved in the production of fossil fuels. Under pressure and heat, long chain polymers of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons with a maximum length of around 18 carbons.

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