Peak oil signifies disaster for plastics producers — ethene, one of the raw materials used to make plastics, relies on abundant supplies of oil for production. But Dutch researcher Tymen Tiemersma thinks he has a solution: a reactor that can produce ethene from natural gas.
Tiemersma’s process relies on a unique catalyst that allows ethene to be produced from plastics. ScienceDaily explains, “The process technologist merged the production of syngas with the production of ethene and developed a method for obtaining both substances efficiently from natural gas. With just one catalyst, a particle that makes it possible to convert one substance into another, he combined the two production processes.”
Tiemersma has yet to actually test his catalyst in a real-world setting. But if it works correctly, the new catalyst could have implications far beyond ethene production from natural gas. Tiemersma’s technique could, for example, also be used one day to produce bioplastics and biofertilizers from biomass–i.e. plant waste. And plant waste is a much better prospect for plastic production than both oil and non-renewable natural gas.