Plastic to Oil


Introduction: Plastic to Oil

About: Hey, just a guy who like to have fun. Hope you like my instructables.

One of the most rapidly decaying natural resource is oil. A fossil fuel that takes millions of years under outstanding conditions to develop under normal standards. The entire world uses 3,570,000,000 gallons a day. Don't believe me? go to this url "How much oil is uses every day". Now that you see why oil is a rapidly decaying natural resource we can begin. According to "Eia", and independent Statistics and Analysis company,"n 2010, about 191 million barrels of LPG and NGL were used in the United States to make plastic products in the plastic materials and resins industry, which was equal to about 2.7% of total U.S. petroleum consumptionI". Adding to that toll, modern plastic bags are estimated to take millions of years to break down, creating waste. However now there us a new way to create more oil and reduce the amount of waste put into the environment. By making a simple $20-$50 refinery if you will, you can create oil from any type of plastic!

PS: In this Instructable i will be referring to the plastic to oil refinery as "ptor" to save time.

If you wish to know how this process works go to the last step.

Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies

I made my potar by using cheap pluming found in most hardware stores. I will just be giving a guidelines for this so that you can build this on any scale you desire. First of all, everything that you get needs to be made out of iron or other high temperature(1200 degrees Fahrenheit) resistant metals. You will need to begin my creating something that will be able to have a screw on cap with opening on it and a solid bottom. For example i used a steel plate and welded it onto a 3 inch pipe in order to create the bottom but there are many other ways.

Other things needed:

  • Propane stoves or a gas welder
  • container for water that must be bigger than how big the combustion chamber is
  • Airtight Seals
  • A cap that can be opened and closed but remain airtight when closed
  • A tube or pipe


Step 2: Put It All Together

Now it's actually time for you to do something. You need to put it all together. Depending on the scale and materials you gathered for the the otpr you will have different steps to do so. For me it consisted of welding, covering threads with high temperature pluming tape. After you finish you want to test it. So you can test it first with water and see if any leaks out or with pressurized air.

Step 3: Creating the Process

Now comes the fun part.

Now, assuming that it is built right, you can begin. Start by shredding plastic bags that are commonly used in stores and just get a big pile of it. Depending on how big yours is you'll have to have a larger or smaller pile. Once you get enough to fill it up, stuff it as tight as possible and attempt to get all air out of there.Then shut or screw on the cap and place the out pipe into a large amount of room temperature water. Now using a welder with a heating tip or another type of heating source, begin heating up the container that the plastic is in. You need to get the container to the temperature range between 1000-1200 degrees and keep it there for 5 minutes on a small project but even longer on a bigger one. By this time you should start to see some air bubbles coming out of the tube and up through the water.

Step 4: After Math

After you finish, remove the pipe from the water container and let the water cool.

After the water calms down and cools, you should see a layer of oil floating on the top. However if there was an error in your build so that it was not airtight, you will see some stuff that kind of resembles plastic like in the photo that has a weird texture similar to grease. This means that your build was not a success and you need to fix it.

Step 5: Afternotes

Also if you are really into this project, i discovered that some gasses are also emitted when this is done such as hydrogen, carbon, and others. Saying that you might be able to capture the gasses produces and those might also be combustible.

Step 6: How It All Works.

Essentially the process that just happened was Pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen (or any halogen). It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible. The chemical bonds in plastic, require a lot a energy to break which is why the temperature is needed to get so hot.

This video is the commercial version of what you just did...Plastic to Oil



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    18 Discussions

    Hi Andrew, great instructable. Yes you will get burnable gasses from the process, which you can use in different ways. Either to go back to your burner and using the syngas (Gas coming off the process) instead of propane of LPG etc. You can also convert a generator to run on the gas to make your own electricity. Most gas fridge/freezers can be run on the unfiltered gas, or you can store it, but be careful, it doesn't compress much.

    To answer silkier below, no you don't use more fuel than produced, it is about 10% of total produced fuel if that's the way you want to go. The amount of fuel produced will depend on the type of plastic used, or other materials for that matter, like car tires. And lastly, no, you don't create more CO2 and pollution than was saved by the pyrolysis process, it actually produce a little less pollution than normal fuel from crude oil, and you get rid of plastic and other waste.

    It's a fascinating process. However, at this stage with low oil prices, it may not be economically feasible, except if you can get your feedstock for free.

    Oh, and Andrew, by using catalysts and further refining you can separate the different types of fuel from each other, but that is a whole ible in it self.

    4 replies

    "using catalysts and further refining" ........... I just can not wait for this 'Ible! Who is going to be the first to do it? The race is on!

    Tecwyn, I will start working on it soon. I have been here years without posting anything, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to start. However, don't hold your breath as I'm not even close to home now to take actual photos of the process. Working in Peru for the forseeable future.

    Can you name some catalysts that can be used to speed up the process

    Metals like copper, aluminium, and simple steel wool will speed up the process. Also clay (bentonite) and you may not believe this, but cat sand will be effective catalysts.

    If you use a solar concentrator you can heat the tube by the sun without burning oil or other tinghs like charcoal, coal or propane.

    This is great I showed my children how it was done and explained about fossil fuels etc. That video at the end is great. Its like docs car engine from back to the future here:

    1 reply

    It is a wonderful idea but I wonder how many resources it requires to return the dreaded plastic to oil? To produce the power to heat this process what fuel was burned? Was more fuel burned than oil produced? Is it economically viable? Did the fuel create more CO2 and pollution than was saved by pyrolysing the plastic?

    I loved the Japanese man in the link and am so happy that he is taking his knowledge and enthusiasm out into the world to educate the next generation, it is people like him who make the future a place that might just be livable in.

    As an interim measure to introduce the idea that rubbish can be valuable and to educate people not to litter it must be applauded.

    In the end isn't it better to start reducing the use of plastics and finally outlaw their use in multipackaging?

    1 reply

    Well Silkier, i used a propane torch to heat it up. On a small scale this is not currently economically viable however there are larger plants that are doing this process on a large scale that is doing it economically viable, Also in industrial use, electric heating is used in order to heat it.
    Also in the end I believe that plastics should not be outlawed but innovated, engineered so they break down faster in our environment, and such.


    3 years ago

    Hi Andrew, great Instructable. I quit this conquest right now, 'cause your idea is very good. But there's no number 1 step. Sorry for my bad english and Good Lucky.

    2 replies

    Hi Laun97. I apologize for the empty step one it seems there was a glitch in the instructable creator. And thankyou for your positive feedback

    Hey that's pretty cool! Here's another very similar project:

    I know exactly where you got this idea from, congrats on actually building it! Upscale it and start a recycling business.

    Why not ?

    Then again, is it energy saving ? Does the result balance the cost of high energy needed to produce it ?

    Where are the pictures ?…

    Just asking … I guess error is on my side … :/