During the last 40 years there has been a dramatic increase of the consumption of plastics. Currently the average person’s consumption of plastic products exceeds 100 kg per year. Nearly 50% of this plastic has a useful working life of less than one month, however its physical life can be many tens of years and its safe disposal/recycling is giving rise to serious environmental concerns.
Significant research was carried out around the turn of the century into various routes to recycle this post-consumer plastic in an environmentally friendly manner. A key process resulting from this research was the BP Polymer Cracking Process. BP commissioned Strata to produce a reactor system that would allow postgraduate students at the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies to study the fundamentals of the polymer cracking process.
The UWI/BP/Strata polymer cracking rig for Sustainable Polymer to Olefin Recycling Technology (SPORT) reactor allows experiments to be carried out using model feeds in a variety of ways. The key features of the rig are:
- An electrically heated, nitrogen blanketed stirred batch reactor to allow simple cracking reactions to be studied with a condenser being fitted to retain the lighter cracked materials in the melt
- An electrically heated flow loop with a high-shear in-line mixer to study enhanced melt-pot operations
- The flow loop can be used to forward feed the partially de-polymerised polymer melt to the fluidised bed reactor. The sand bed is fluidised with nitrogen gas and the polymer injected at two points just above the gas distributor plate. The cracked products are collected in a cooled cyclone receiver and a demister pad is provided to maximise collection of the lighter fractions
The advantage of this rig is in its greater cracking flexibility: a wider variety of products can be obtained by varying independently process parameters; temperature, stirring rates, residence times and cracking in the semi-batch and continuous flow sections of the reactor.
Dr. Nigel John BSc PhD
Researcher and rig user
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