We Gave It a Good Shot
Since 2003, Penn State has been showcasing a plastic-derived fuel technology developed in Korea by GR Technologies Company, Ltd. This company developed a plastic-derived fuel burner that cleanly and efficiently burned certain types of plastic to heat greenhouses and other structures. We began this endeavor because this was the only technology of its kind in the world. Penn State’s intent was not to promote the company, but rather to promote the concept of using discarded plastics as fuel in a safe and environmentally friendly fashion. Penn State has been the steward for the first two production burners ever shipped outside Korea. Below is a brief history describing how we have tested and demonstrated these burners before thousands of people at various research sites, shows and venues.
Horticulture Research Farm Era
In 2003, the CEO of GR Technologies Company came to Penn State, giving a technical seminar at Penn State about this technology to a group of scientists, engineers, and environmental regulators. In 2004, we displayed the burner at the Clean Energy Expo. Also in 2004, a burner with its associated boiler was installed at Penn State’s Horticulture Research Farm. Plans were to heat a nearby high tunnel greenhouse, and to fully instrument the burner to monitor performance. In April, 2006, due to funding limitations, work on the Horticulture Research Farm high tunnel heating project was curtailed (put on the back burner, so to speak).
Air Emissions Testing Era
In May, 2005 and again in November, 2007, Penn State engineers operated the boiler system for air emissions testing by an independent testing firm. Emissions tests were conducted under the watchful eyes of technicians from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. These tests conformed to US Environmental Protection Agency test methods. Test data proved the burner was very clean burning, and emissions were well below acceptable levels. Tests were funded by the American Plastics Council, now called the American Chemistry Council.
Eco Clean Burner Corporation Era
In 2008, commercialization efforts shifted to a startup company called Eco Clean Burner Corporation, based out of Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The goal of Eco Clean Burner was to commercialize the technology, selling it initially throughout North America. A demonstration heating system was installed at a commercial greenhouse in Southwestern Pennsylvania. During 2009-2010, Allegheny Cooperative Extension working with Eco Clean management were able to modify the Korean model to include programmable logic control (touch screen) technologies to ready the burner for commercialization. Due to financial difficulties, Eco Clean Burner has not been able to make the marketing of these burners a reality.
Outlook for the Future
At this point it doesn’t look as if this technology will be available commercially for sale in the near future. While it is an excellent concept that works well, red tape and business challenges have made it very difficult to make these devices available in North America. If and when we hear otherwise, we will be sure to post an update on this Website.