LOS LUNASSeeking to address two problems at once, the village of Los Lunas recently approved an investment to explore the possibility of purchasing a plant that converts plastic into fuel. 

“I’m asking to put a refundable deposit on (a permanent plant) to see if this is the way we want to go forward with how we manage the reduction of plastic within our waste stream,” said Los Lunas public works director Michael Jaramillo at the March 7 village council meeting.  

In 2022, the village of Los Lunas established a small, proof-of-concept plant off Morris Road in Los Lunas that was able to transform up to 100 pounds of plastic into roughly 15 gallons of fuel per day. The demo plant and accompanying technology is the product of PlastikGas, a 6-year-old company based in Dallas, Texas.  

Martin Suazo, executive vice president of PlastikGas, said at the meeting their plants can use all seven different types of plastic to produce mainly gasoline and diesel, but also usable kerosene, paraffin and PLG—an additive for steel. According to the company, all products can be used immediately and do not need further refinement.  

Previous News-Bulletin reporting states the plants use proprietary technology that utilizes a vaporization process to turn plastic into the resulting fuels.  

News-Bulletin file photo
PlastikGas personnel inspect a sample batch of fuel produced by the proof-of-concept plant established in the village in 2022.

According to PlastikGas’ website, the process produces “high performance gasoline and diesel” and emissions resulting from the processing plants “do not exceed maximum permissible emission levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.” 

Jaramillo said the reason he is approaching the council now about the possibility of establishing a permanent plant is because Suazo recently informed him of an opportunity to purchase a plant at a significant discount.  

“One of the facilities they had planned for another site is not moving forward,” said Jaramillo. “The type of facility we’re looking at is about a $3.5 million investment. However, the PlastikGas company is very supportive of this project, so they’re offering it to the village at a cost of $1.4 million.” 

The facility being proposed is a size two plant, which requires an area that’s about 100-feet wide and 200-feet long. If the project moves forward, Jaramillo said the plant would likely be built at the village’s solid waste transfer station.  

Suazo said a size two plant can convert four tons per shift and every plant is capable of running at least two shifts a day. According to the company, running one shift a day for 30 days on a size two plant produces 15,240 gallons of 102 octane gasoline and 8,880 gallons of diesel.  

Jaramillo said the village does not have full funding in place for this yet, which is why he is asking for the approval of $200,000 for a refundable deposit to serve as a placeholder while he and his team do more research into the feasibility of a permanent plant as well what potential external funding sources are available to make it a reality.  

Suazo said the company is willing to work with the village to mitigate risk as much as possible and make the venture as agreeable as they can. He said he was born and raised in Las Vegas, N.M., and there are several partners also from New Mexico, so they are invested in helping to bring a PlastikGas plant to the area.  

“When we got the opportunity to come here with a four-ton plant that typically we retail at $3.5 million, we talked with Roberto, my partner in PlastikGas, and he said ‘You know what? We got 1.4 (million) into this, so let’s go ahead and sell this to the village. Let’s make this thing a legacy project for us and do some good things in New Mexico,’” said Suazo.  

Jaramillo emphasized to the council the need for something to address the influx of plastic as the village can only recycle a couple kinds of plastic — plastic one and two — so much of the plastic disposed of is discarded into a landfill. In fact, Suzao said about 33 percent of everything that goes into a landfill is plastic.  

“(Sandoval County) estimated their landfill was going to fill up in 20 years, but it’s looking like 10 is what they’re estimating, so they are very interested in our process as well because it cuts the rate of plastic going into your landfill and you’re generating something that’s usable,” said Suazo. 

News-Bulletin file photo
The PlastikGas proof-of-concept plant, pictured, in Los Lunas is about 20×40 feet. The facility being proposed is a size two plant, which requires an area that’s about 100-feet wide and 200-feet long.

Jaramillo also explained that the village’s diesel usage is increasing due to growth, so having that additional source would be beneficial and save money in the long run.  

“Ten years ago we had one tank for diesel, which is about 10,000 gallons we were (filling) once a month and today we fill up that diesel tank almost two to three times a month,” he said.  

Councilor James Runyon said, as a former chemical engineer, he is excited by the concept, but he wanted to know if the village receives enough plastic to justify a permanent plant.  

Suazo said the village currently receives roughly three tons of discarded plastic per day.  

“We can subsidize plastic if you want to make sure it’s successful financially while you grow into it, but eventually I don’t think you will have any problems siphoning it from all over the area,” said Suazo. 

Jaramillo added that should the village establish a permanent plant and the public is aware, there would likely be more people wanting to drop off their plastic. 

Arturo Romero, the village’s solid waste superintendent, uses some of the fuel generated from the demo PlastikGas plant in his own vehicles and said he is “pretty sure we could double or triple our intake of plastic with us trying to go after businesses and residents.”  

Jaramillo said the village’s attorney can create language to ensure the $200,000 put toward the refundable deposit can be returned to the village if they decide to not move forward with the project.  

“We still got to work out details of operation and how we manage it day to day, how we produce it, how we store it, how we put it back into our system … so we still got a lot of work to do, but I’m geared to go forward,” Jaramillo said.  

The council unanimously approved the request of the refundable deposit to hold the plastic recycling plant while the village’s public works department continues to pursue more detailed plans, equipment and construction costs. 

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.