Fuel from waste – The birth of Petroldragon

Andrea Rossi’s passion for research and innovation endured: in 1978 — in a social and historical context where the problem of energy sources had become extremely topical — he focused on the possibility of turning organic waste into a liquid product very similar to the same oil which is extracted every day from the deepest layers of the earth’s crust.

It is common knowledge that masses of plant and animal organic wastes are processed over time into oil by the extremely high pressure exerted by gravity, as well as by the temperature gradients stemming from the ever-molten core in the center of the Earth. Much in the same manner, Andrea Rossi contemplated the possibility of creating the necessary environmental conditions for this process artificially, by speeding up to an incredible degree the same chemical and physical transformations occurring in nature over a time span of whole geological eras. In a manner of speaking, he wanted to simulate a job that takes our planet several million years to complete.

There were countless difficulties and technical hurdles to be faced in order to turn this insight to a practical, repeatable, and inexpensive procedure. Lengthy studies and repeated attempts led to the development of a technology which was able to simulate the phenomenon that occurs in the heart of the earth, by subjecting waste to repeated pressures and changes of temperature in a reducing atmosphere until a mixture of fuel oil, coal and gas was obtained (the gas being used to power the process itself).

This innovative technology was patented by the Ufficio Brevetti Cicogna [Cicogna Patent Office] of Milan in 1978.

Those interested in an in-depth knowledge of the events concerning these difficult beginnings and in a more complete view of the process, may read the following books:

Petrolio dai rifiuti, [Oil from Waste], Sugarco Editrice, Milan 1980;

In nome del petrolio [In the Name of Oil], GEI-Rizzoli, Milan 1983; reprint: Mondadori, Milan 1985.

The revolutionary potential of this project was clear from the very first; in a few months, Petroldragon — this being the name of the company which was established to develop and implement the technology — was able to produce, albeit by means of a yet rather makeshift and primitive apparatus, two tons of oil from ten tons of organic wastes, i.e. that fraction of municipal waste consisting of paper, wood, plastic, food, and the like.

In 1978, with Andrea Rossi’s investment already on the level of several hundred million Lire, the technology for the production of oil from waste was finalized, and the transforming apparatus was to all intents and purposes in working order.

Shortly afterwards, Andrea Rossi found a way to transform his product, by means of a refinement process, into other market-ready refined products. He began producing his own oil on a continuous basis, as much as 20 tons a day.