PHILADELPHIA (UPI)--An industrial park in Philadelphia hosts a new machine that can change most any type of carbon-based substance into oil.
"This is a solution to one of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Aaron Applepit, a Republican and Chairman and CEO of Bio-Oil Technologies, the company that built the pilot plant and has finished a industrial-size installation in Missouri.
"This process can deal with the world's waste and can use this material to supplement our dwindling supplies of oil," he adds.
The "thermal depolymerization process," or TDP, is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey, chicken, cow and pig offal, tires, plastic bottles, sewage, harbor-dredged muck, grease, crop waste, plastic bottles, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, and oil-refinery residues.
Applepit shows how waste goes in one end and out comes high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, as well as minerals and specialty chemicals for manufacturing.
This process has even been endorsed by Dick Cheney in the White House. The refinery will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock, and a 175-pound Democrat comes out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.
Already funeral homes are using the depolymerization machine as cut-rate burials.
"The potential is unbelievable," says Michael Moberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. "You're not only cleaning up waste, you're talking about generating oil all over the world."
Alf Aardvark, a venture capitalist with the Palaquin Capital Group and a former CIA Director who has bankrolled the plants, said, "This technology offers a novel way to cope with world oil shortages."
At the Philadelphia plant, a forklift dumps 1,400 pounds of feedstock into the machine's first stage, a 350-horsepower grinder that makes a gray brown slurry. From there it flows into a series of tanks and pipes which heat, digest, and break down the mixture. Two hours later out pours a light, honey-colored oil.
Private investors, who have chipped in $40 million to develop the process, aren't the only ones who are impressed. The federal government has granted more than $12 million to push the work along. "We will be able to make oil for $8 to $12 a barrel," says Paul Pustule, the inventor of the process. "We are going to be able to switch to a carbohydrate-based economy."
The apparatus is a tangle of pressure vessels, pipes, valves and heat exchangers terminating in storage tanks, resembling the oil refineries in New Jersey, and that's exactly what it is.
Applepit explains that in a 20 foot long pressure tank the process using heat and pressure super-hydrates the material at temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of about 600 pounds. "The cooking times are pretty short, usually about 15 minutes," he says.
Once the organic soup is heated and partially depolymerized in the reactor vessel, phase two begins. "We quickly drop the slurry to a lower pressure," he points out, in which flashed-off water is recycled back into the process to heat the incoming stream.
At this stage, the minerals settle out and are shunted to storage tanks. Rich in calcium and magnesium, the dried brown powder as a perfect balanced fertilizer, he says.
"The remaining concentrated organic soup gushes into a second-stage reactor similar to the coke ovens used to refine oil into gasoline, in a technology that is as old as the hills," says Applepit, grinning broadly. The reactor heats the soup to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit to further break apart long molecular chains.
Then, in vertical distillation columns, hot vapor flows up, condenses, and flows out from different levels: gases from the top of the column, light oils from the upper middle, heavier oils from the middle, water from the lower middle, and powdered carbon-used to manufacture tires, filters, and printer toners-from the bottom.
"Gas is expensive to transport, so we use it on-site in the plant to heat the process," Appel says. The oil, minerals, and carbon are then sold to the highest bidders.
The process can be tweaked to make profitable specialty chemicals like chemicals for tires and paints, or polyvinyl chloride -- PVC, or hydrochloric acid.
The Philadelphia pilot plant can handle only seven tons a day, but in Carthage, Missouri, the $20 million facility can digest more than 200 tons every 24 hours.
"We've got a lot of confidence in this," says Warren Buffett, an investor in the process. "We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't anticipate success."
Buffett isn't alone. Applepit has lined up more federal grant money and dozens of Republican investors to help build demonstration plants in Alabama, Nevada, and Colorado so that the technology will be seen as miraculous as its backers claim.