A new type of fuel made from plastic waste could replace fossil fuels in marine engines

Marine diesel derived from plastic waste trialled in Bristol

A new type of fuel made from mixed plastic waste is being tested for use in diesel engines in tankers, ferries and industrial machinery.

Dubbed Plaxx, the fuel has been developed by a team from Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in cooperation with Recycling Technologies.

The tests, to be conducted with financial support from Innovate UK and ESPRC, will verify whether Plaxx could be used instead of existing heavy fuel oils (HFO) without increasing engine wear.

Plaxx, made through the process of depolymerisation of plastics, consists of a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules similar to crude oil. Unlike crude oil, Plaxx is low in sulphur and other organic as well is inorganic contaminants.

“This new fuel could have huge environmental benefits as an alternative to HFO currently used in marine diesel engines and industrial engines,” said Associate Professor Farid Dailami from BRL. “Our research will compare the performance of this fuel with standard diesel fuel in order to gain data on how it performs and to ensure it won't damage the engine or cause harmful emissions or gases.”

In addition to replacing a polluting fossil fuel, widespread use of Plaxx would also benefit waste treatment companies, packaging manufacturers and local waste handling authorities. Production of Plaxx would help solve the problem of plastic waste that can’t be processed by traditional plastics recycling techniques and ends up in landfill or an incinerator. That includes all mixed, laminated or contaminated plastics from industrial, commercial as well as municipal waste streams. Currently, the majority of plastic waste cannot be recycled.

“This research will allow Recycling Technologies to characterise the use of Plaxx for use in diesel engines thus opening up a global market for an important new innovative material to replace fossil fuels with a product derived from waste,” said Adrian Griffiths, CEO of Recycling Technologies.

The team says Plaxx would lower the cost of waste management. Similarly to crude oil, Plaxx could be further refined and used as an input to plastics manufacturing.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles