Plastic Waste to Crude

Sanitation and energy remain two important challenges for India. And it seems a couple of Indian innovators may have a solution. Nitin Bondal and Raghuvendra Rao have set up STEPS, a company that uses Polycrack system developed by the duo to convert all kind of plastic waste to crude. They have recently been featured by BBC and Forbes India.

STEPS is setting up a 150 tonne a day plant in Mumbai, which will produce 120,000 liters of crude oil every day. India is estimated to generate 1.2 million tonne of municipal waste every day. If all of that can be polycracked we will have an annual production of 2.2 billion barrel of crude, which can cover our entire crude import bill, if the calculations below are correct:

Daily Waste (Tonnes) 1,200,000
Crude Yield (Liters per Tonne of Waste) 800
Daily Crude Potential (Liters) 960,000,000
Daily Crude Potential (Barrels) 6,037,736
Annual Crude Production Potential (Barrels) 2,203,773,585
Dollar Value ($100/Barrel) US$ 220 billion
India’s Crude Import (FY 12) US$ 160 billion

BBC and Forbes features on STEPS are interesting to read.

It turns out that there is at least one other Indian innovator who has a developed a plastic to crude process. Alka Zadgaonkar, a Chemistry professor in Nagpur who has invented a method to turn waste plastic to crude, was featured by The Tribune way back in 2003 –¬† This also found place in a Government of India press release on 7 February 2004.

One wonders then, why have these innovations not been commercialized and scaled up, when the evidence is that their economics actually work out. One possible common explanation that emerges from the various articles on these innovators on the www, is that they were afraid that the intellectual property underlying their innovation will not be duly respected, and they wont be duly rewarded.

There is also this issue of credibility. Innovators, given their sense of achievement, possibly overestimate the potential of their innovations. As a result, oftentimes, their claims lack credibility.

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