The company’s technology breaks tyres down to their steel belting, carbon and a fuel oil. That fuel oil can be used for heating or to run some stationary diesel engines such as generators. The steel belting actually comes out looking shiny and new and can be sent back to tyre manufacturers to be reused.
The secret of GDT’s technology is a process called destructive distillation. Yes, the company is working on a more marketing-friendly name for it.
At the moment the GDT’s technology is only scaled for the consumer end of the tyre market but it is keen to expand into recycling mining sized tyres.
GDT won a bronze medal in the world’s top innovation prize the Edison Awards and were Australia’s first ever finalist in the awards.
The company is spending $8 million to upgrade at its plant in Warren, New South Wales and move it to full production.
Of the $12.75 million being raised, $4 million will go towards that upgrade, which will take the plant to a 19,000 tonne per annum throughput. That is the equivalent to a mix of 658,000 car and truck tyres – about 3% of the end of life tyres generated in Australia each year.
The remainder of the funds will be used to build a second plant.
GDT CEO Craig Dunn said the company was still some months off generating a positive cash flow and was chasing cashed up investors looking for medium to long-term returns.
He said the company’s priority would be to plough its income back into expansion.
The thing is, this could be the one chance to keep this technology in Australia.
“Raising capital in Australia is always challenging in contrast to the US,” Dunn said.
“While we were there to collect our Edison Award we were asked by a major investor if we could build thirty end of life recycling plants across the US.
“These 30 plants would only process approximately 18% of the 250 million end of life tyres generated in the US each year so you can see the scope for growth is immense.
“We have also received enquiries about establishing processing plants from South America, Europe and Asia.
“If we receive this amount of funding from the US it is highly likely that the extent of the investment would have to be recognised and this may lead to the control of the process passing out of Australian hands.
“The alternative could be if we are able to negotiate a licensing agreement of some sort to retain ownership of the intellectual property but these type of deals are always dependent on the extent of the investment.”
So far GDT has received a lot of interest from around Australia but it is more from regions wanting the company to set up plants there. It seems little funding is being offered to support those requests.
Mining could be an area interested in the technology. After all, mine sites are dotted with tonnes of spent large off the road tyres.
However, there are some technical challenges to overcome before that can happen, albeit mostly logistical.
At the moment the largest size GDT’s plant can handle is a super single tyre – the type fitted to buses and B-Double trucks.
The distillation process takes place in a 15m tall tower so lifting the 4t or so of OTR tyre to that height will be a challenge.
Then comes the problem of what to do with all the oil that will be produced.
GDT chief operating officer Trevor Bayley estimated a large OTR tyre would put out about 1500 litres of oil and about 1.6t of carbon.
“It would cost about $2-$2.5 million to do the research and development on it,” Bayley said.
“If there is a mining company that has a particular issue and is prepared to pay 50% of that, we’ll get to work.”