Refining is a Technology to upgrade carbonaceous feedstock – why not also Waste?

Why haven’t we heard much about Waste Refining yet? Refineries usually crack input hydrocarbons or in the case of bio-refineries – carbohydrates into chemically re-usable Carbon and Hydrogen molecules to synthesize new hydrocarbons by combing the decomposition intermediaries at more advantageous ratios. For example crude oil input at a Hydrogen : Carbon ratio of 0.9 : 1 refined to gasoline at 1.1 : 1.

Remembering that Mother Nature transformed biomass through pressure cooker reaction into crude oil and coal, nowadays used as refinery inputs. Carbotopia™ or e.g. also Enerkem take organic residues through an accelerated decomposition to just recover their chemical energy for further refining. In contrary to incineration, which destroys all input for a scanty Secondary Energy yield at a poor Carbon Efficiency Waste Refining adds value at similar operating expenses like incineration costs. Choosing output usage paths otherwise requiring elaborate multi-stage crude oil transformation arms’ length output product value exceeds cost of Waste Refining.


During biochemical and thermochemical decomposition of organic residues about 40% of Carbon input balances out with moisture and reaction water into CO2. Therefore the remaining bio-refinery feedstock goes from a Hydrogen : Carbon ratio of 0.7-0.8 : 1 up to 1.36 : 1 representing about 1.5 times the ratio of crude oil or 3.4 times the ratio of coal!

The second driver for the competitive advantage of waste-refining over crude oil is that the combined non-compostable organic waste fractions energetically spread across biochemical : thermochemical decomposition approximately 1 : 1 deliver over ⅓ of its 65% chemical energy yield already in chemical synthesis gas molecules while the remaining ⅔ being Methane with all the merits of Natural Gas.

Therefore Waste Refining can be limited to methane-splitting for just 67% energy transformation than being the case from 100% Natural Gas feedstock, opening up the same widespread synthesis gas platform for downstream chemical synthesis output options. So why do people think burning organic waste or biomass was a good thing to do? NO, being a superior refining feedstock it should be used prior to crude-oil! It would serve Carbon efficiency, Energy-efficiency and economics from closed loop local supply chains, creating significant new employment opportunities.

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