Heat and energy are the currency that keep our country running. Since almost every industry requires energy, it is a sought-after resource. However, many of the substances, such as coal, that industries burn to create energy are mined from natural landscapes and release copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. To answer the need for cleaner ways to produce energy, tire recyclers have developed a way to effectively reduce tires into oil for energy production and other resources.

Introducing Pyrolysis

Pyro means heat, and lysis means disintegrate, so pyrolysis literally translates to heat disintegration. In basic terms, pyrolysis is the superheating of a material in an environment without oxygen. Primarily used on organic matter, pyrolysis causes the material to disintegrate into different substances.

Tire recyclers did not invent pyrolysis. The practice of pyrolysis has been around for centuries. The Egyptians created charcoal and methanol through the pyrolysis of wood. As technology progressed, pyrolysis helped scientists discover many useful chemical substances.

Pyrolysis of Waste Tires

When an end-of-life tire ends up at a pyrolysis plant, shredding machines break down the tires into smaller pieces. Although some pyrolysis plants process the tires whole, this method generally leads to less efficient reactions.

Pyrolysis of tire chips is a relatively recent innovation, and the technology that makes it possible is still undergoing numerous makeovers and reiterations. Almost all reactors heat the tire chips to between 850 and 1000 degrees Fahrenheit in an oxygen-free environment. Some heat the tire chips rapidly to achieve the results of flash pyrolysis, whereas others increase the temperature gradually and achieve different output qualities. Recently microwaves have been used to begin the heating process.

Outputs of Tire Pyrolysis

Although no flames are present due to the lack of oxygen, pyrolysis, like burning, is an irreversible process where the chemical makeup of the original substances is changed. As the temperature increases, tires soften and eventually disintegrate.

Tire rubber is a polymer which means it consists of extended chains of connected carbon molecules. The extreme temperatures created in a pyrolysis reactor break these chains into individual molecules that exist as solids, liquids and gases.

The main outputs of tire pyrolysis are:

  • Steel wire (separated from the tire chips before the pyrolysis process)
  • Synthetic Gas
  • Oil
  • Recovered Carbon Black

Tire Pyrolysis Business

Tire recycling lines are simple, low-cost, and environmentally friendly business startups. Tire recycling equipment enables entrepreneurs to turn a profit by selling crumb rubber and rubber powder for use in construction and molding industries. Tire pyrolysis adds another card to the table for tire recycling companies to consider. The outputs of pyrolysis in some ways boost tire recyclers to more productive markets.

Businesses can start by selling the steel removed from tires. Depending on the facility’s focus, you might sell steel raw to brokers, refine it or even shape useful steel objects.

The synthetic gas produced by the pyrolysis process is not a consistent grade and can be challenging to sell. However, it may be incorporated into biofuels. Many companies love the recycled source of synthetic gas from waste tires.

The oil produced from waste tire pyrolysis is used by cement kilns, paper manufacturers, energy producers, and many more. Although oil prices fluctuate heavily, the demand remains consistently high.

Recovered carbon black looks like charcoal powder and accounts for over 30% of waste tire pyrolysis output. To the untrained eye, it may appear like the dregs at the bottom of a coffee cup and, like dregs, good for nothing but washing down the sink. Fortunately for tire recyclers, the material is a crucial ingredient in many rubber goods. Recovered carbon black is used in producing garden hoses, printing ink, conveyor belts, and automotive coatings. It can also be burnt as a smokeless fuel. Business strategists and entrepreneurs host an annual conference focussed entirely on recovered carbon black, discussing how it can be sourced more readily from waste tire pyrolysis and used more widely throughout the rubber industry.

Pyrolysis Critics

Although pyrolysis opens the doors to success a little wider for tire recycling startups, some critics make a case for abstaining from the process altogether. The main arguments against pyrolysis focus on energy and sustainability. Running a pyrolysis reactor requires huge energy input. Even if it does produce biofuels used by power plants and the transportation industry, is the energy used to create the biofuels sustainable? Furthermore, while the oil created by pyrolysis reduces the strain on natural oil deposits, the burning of any oil still releases carbon into the atmosphere. This carbon increases local air pollution and exacerbates global climate change.

In the end, it pays to be informed about the options available through waste tire recycling. End-of-life tire pyrolysis allows recyclers to enter new markets, supply needed resources, and make the venture monetarily worthwhile.