Mexican Innovation Turns Plastic into Fuel
Pollution caused by plastic waste is already a concerning issue. Nevertheless, the United Nations expect the problem to double in scope by 2030. Mexican innovator Petgas patented a new way to deal with plastic: turning it into an efficient gasoline-like fuel to generate energy and power engines. It is now seeking to expand its production facilities.
In the past, plastic was seen as nothing short of a revolution. But the issue of plastic waste and its disastrous effect on the environment is becoming increasingly prevalent. To make matters worse, information from National Geographic shows that only 9 percent of so-called recyclable plastic is actually recycled. Many companies today are looking to address the issue by finding ways to make plastic biodegradable. Petgas has a different solution: through the process of non-catalytic pyrolysis, every thinkable form of plastic is turned from its solid form to gas in a process that creates zero emissions. The resulting fuel that the company compares to either gasoline or diesel contains no sulfur and has 50 percent less emissions when burned compared to traditional fossil fuels. “Petgas has managed to turn the problem of plastic pollution in a clean energy source,” the company told Forbes. According to Petgas, the resulting fuel is 15 percent below the currently inflated gasoline prices, ensuring that end users do not pay more for fueling their cars.
Over the course of 2021, the company attracted US$2.9 million in financing. Petgas aims to invest US$2.4 million in a pyrolysis plant to be located in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, with a predicted capacity to turn 12 tons of plastic into fuel per day. "The projection is to invest US$24 million over the next five years, so that the plant reaches a capacity to process a 150 tons per day,” Petgas’ CEO, Pablo Chico, told El Norte in August 2021. Another plant in Chihuahua is being developed as well. Together, the plants will produce 4,800l of gasoline, 2,800l of diesel, 1,200l of kerosene, 500l of liquefied gas and 500l of paraffin. “We consider that the industry established in the north of Mexico is the touchstone for companies throughout the country to accelerate the adoption of best ecological practices around plastic, such as its transformation into fuel,” Chico added. Petgas said last year that it wants to construct eight new plants across the nation in 2022, using further investment.
Waste-to-energy, which either turns waste into fuel or generates electricity and heat from its treatment, has been used for centuries. Gases emanating from landfills can similarly be utilized. Despite its promise to tackle two issues at once, gathering enough fuel to impact the energy matrix can be challenging. For this reason, waste-to-energy and biomass-focused projects seek sustainable sources to convert to energy.