A new tyre recycling technology has been successfully tested in North Wales, leading to confidence that a new commercial-scale recycling plant will open next year.
Used Tyre Distillation Research Ltd told letsrecycle.com today it has opened a fully functioning pilot plant to demonstrate its new processing technology at Ruabon, near Wrexham.
(left to right): Paul Archer, Richard Hutchins and Mike Walker of UTD Research at the pilot plant in Ruabon, North Wales
Equipment is already being lined up that could scale the pilot facility up to a 17,000 tonne annual capacity, while there are also hopes of developing more plants in the UK and abroad.
The technology – called continuous reduction distillation – is based on heating used tyres to produce carbon black, oil and steel. Unlike pyrolysis, the system is continuous with material moving through the system constantly, without the need to heat and then cool batches of used tyres.
UTD Research was founded by engineer Richard Hutchins and industrial chemist Mike Walker, who have spent a decade developing the technology.
The company's marketing director, Paul Archer, said: “Our recycling system brings a step nearer the goal of providing a real environmental service and employment opportunities to Wales. The new process offers a more sustainable and sophisticated way of managing finite resources and protecting the environment for years to come.”
Developing the pilot plant, UTD Research received 70,000 in support from NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. NESTA chief executive Jonathan Kestenbaum, said: “The system is efficient, economical and addresses an extremely pressing environmental concern. As well as being vital to the UK's economic future, UTD Research's work shows that innovation is crucial to solving the environmental problems of our day.”
The company is now seeking investment for the commercial-scale facility for the same site at Ruabon, and is confident of success.
The “frugal” manner in which the pilot plant was established has meant the company has downgraded estimations of the investment needed. Initially, it was believed that a 3.5 million investment would be required (see letsrecycle.com story), but Mr Archer said the company now need “an absolute maximum of one and a quarter million”.
Despite growing demand for used tyres in the UK (see letsrecycle.com story), Mr Archer told letsrecycle.com there would be ample used tyres available for use in commercial-scale plants following the landfill ban on used tyres since July.
“Our latest research suggests that there isn't a shortage of tyres at the moment – there is a growth in the use of new tyres at the moment of 3% a year,” he said.
As the company seeks investment for its plant, it is also running a research and development programme with the Centre for Advanced and Renewable Materials at the University of Wales, Bangor.
The programme is inviting any company that uses carbon black, oil or steel of the type produced from the process to work with UTD Research develop new end markets.
“We're looking for companies who may be interested in coming on board, who require carbon black or oil in the appropriate grades to get in touch and work towards a demonstration product,” Mr Archer said.