A US waste management company has teamed up with a gasification technology upstart to generate energy, according to the CNet Green Tech post below. Gasification is different from incineration used by some waste management facilities: it does not burn municipal waste feedstock but treats it with high temperatures and pressure until it breaks down into a synthesis gas, which contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This gas, called syngas, can be burned in a commercial turbine to make electricity or heat.
The advantage of combining syngas production with waste management is that apparently 99% of waste can be used, either for direct material recycling, energy production and utilising left-over solids to make asphalt or other construction materials. Making energy from garbage as a feedstock also has the advantage of generating energy where the people are and use it, unlike wind solar energy that needs a transmission infrastructure.
Waste Management invests in trash-to-energy tech
S4 Energy Solutions is a joint venture which will use plasma gasification technology from InEnTec of Bend, Ore., to build distributed energy systems. Waste Management financed the creation of the venture, marking the first time that the trash collector has invested in gasification technology, said Senior Vice President Joseph Vaillancourt.
The new company plans to build distributed energy systems that use separated industrial waste as a “feedstock.” For example, the company plans to design systems that can turn medical waste into electricity at hospitals, said Jeffrey Surma, the president and CEO of S4 Energy Solutions.
There are a number of mostly small companies that are developing trash-to-energy systems around gasification. One company, Enerkem, on Wednesday passed the environmental regulatory process and won approval to build a facility to turn municipal solid trash into ethanol and chemicals in Edmonton, Alberta.
Rather than burn trash, gasification heats the material at very high temperatures until it breaks down and produces a synthesis gas, or syngas. That syngas can be burned in a natural gas turbine, which is considered a relatively clean way to make electricity. S4 Energy Solutions said that it can also make ethanol, other liquid fuels, or potentially hydrogen.
The InEnTec product has a process for cleaning the syngas. Initial tests show that the level of environmental pollutants dioxins and furens released is low, Surma said.
“The emissions from a power generating facility would be far better than EPA requirements, comparable if not better than a power generator operating on natural gas,” he said, adding that the company hopes to have customers later this year.
The technology was originally developed in the early 1990s at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Surma said.
S4 Energy’s planned gasification systems won’t replace incinerators but they do provide an option for on-site energy generation. Waste Management will provide ancillary equipment, such as sorting, to create a full waste-to-energy system, Vaillancourt said.