Tire recycler conducts trials of new thermoelectric device that converts heat to electricity

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Australian tire recycler Green Distillation Technologies, which operates a processing plant at Warren in Western New South Wales, is to conduct the first industrial trials of a revolutionary new thermoelectric device from the USA that converts heat to electric power.

The devices, which fit around the exhaust flue, have some similarities to the rooftop polyvoltaic panels used in solar energy generation, but convert heat to electric energy.

So far, all prototype testing has been confined to a laboratory in the USA, so these will be the first field trials to be conducted.

Green Distillation Technologies’ chief operating officer, Trevor Bayley, said that the electric power needed to operate the company’s tire processing facility is expensive. “This problem is compounded for us at Warren as our power travels 500km [310 miles] from the Hunter Valley and we can suffer a significant transmission loss, which means we are paying a premium for power that we don’t get.

“We had considered installing a solar energy system, but we don’t really have any large flat roof surfaces and the only waste that comes from our process is heat and our exhaust stack, which is connected to the six processing modules and maintains a constant temperature that is ideal for thermoelectric generation, using this technology,” Bayley added.

The recycling process turns old end-of-life tires into oil, carbon and steel and their emissions are scrubbed so that they conform to NSW Environment Protection Agency guidelines.

“We use our own oil as the heat source for the tire processing, which is what generates the waste heat, so we have created a further cycle by using oil created from old tires, to generate some of the electricity needed to operate the plant.

“Our tire recycling technology is a world first and has created considerable international interest. As a result, we were offered the opportunity of testing this new thermoelectric power generation system. At this stage we envisage that the system will only generate sufficient power for our own needs and not provide any excess for the grid or other users,” said Bayley.

“We have a different problem at Toowoomba as we have received a Queensland Government Environmental Licence and Development Approval from the Toowoomba Regional Council, but we were not successful in getting the US$5m Queensland government recycling grant to pay 50% of the estimated construction cost. That decision has meant that we have to either find the money from private investment, or re-evaluate the project and focus our attention elsewhere.

“When we made the application, we were assured we had a good chance for success. Our priority for Toowoomba is to take up the government’s offer to meet and discuss why we were not successful and see if we should reapply, or to try and raise the funds from private investors,” Bayley continued.

“As well as raising funds to build the Toowoomba facility, bringing our Warren tire recycling plant up to full production is a top priority following the recent awarding of Environmental Permission by the New South Wales authorities after a four-year delay.

“We have always believed that once we had all the government permissions in place, it was then down to business – build the remainder of the Warren plant to full design capacity, process tires, and generate income from the sale of our recycled oil, carbon and steel. The plant design is for six tire processing modules at Warren and the next step will be building of modules two to six.

“We already have the parts to build these modules, but we need to raise capital to build the other three and achieve the capacity to process approximately 700,000 old tires per year into eight million liters of oil, 7,700 tons of carbon black and 2,000 tons of steel, which represents approximately 3% of the end-of-life tires that are generated in Australia each year.

Green Distillation Technologies is also currently raising capital funds to establish another processing plant in Toowoomba, Southern Queensland.

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the ground-breaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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