LONDON—Tire pyrolysis is the best recycling process despite its complicated nature and high investment requirements, according to industry analyst and expert for alternative filler materials Martin von Wolfersdorff.
While maintaining that there's not a universal solution for everybody, Wolfersdorff said the technology provides the opportunity of material valorization along with running a net positive energy process from tire feedstock.
"And on top of that, pyrolysis can produce more energy which you can feed into the grid if energy prices are attractive," he added.
Pyrolysis is one of the three plausible processes for recycling, with the other two being micro-granulation and devulcanization.
While in terms of energy consumption, pyrolysis stands out from the other two, material valorization in the process stands at roughly 44 percent, lower than 93 percent in devulcanization and nearly 100 percent in micro-granulation.
But Wolfersdorff argues that pyrolysis technology is a good compromise between energy production and material recycling and it offers the opportunity to develop value-adding products which already have found some inroads into the tire industry.
According to the expert, the complex process has added value in terms of usage in functional and low PAH carbon products for rubber, plastics, adsorbents and battery applications.
Wolfersdorff said Japanese tire maker Bridgestone, has already invested in tire pyrolysis and "many other top tire companies are exploring the space."
Globally, there are more than 160 advanced tire pyrolysis companies at various stages of technical evolution. About 73 of these are located in Europe and about 30 companies in North America.
"What distinguishes the top 40 companies from the rest is their product, applications and market focus, modern technology and smart sourcing of the tire feedstock," Wolfersdorff said.
The top 20 tire pyrolysis companies, he added, already have a capacity of about 170,000 tons per year of recovered carbon black, a volume capacity comparable with one world-class virgin carbon black plant.