Converting waste into energy is not revolutionary and has occurred for decades, but a series of presenters at the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) 2012 WasteCon event say that a momentous shift in thinking and investment is about to revitalize this sector.
Harvey Gershman, a principal with solid waste and recycling consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), Fairfax, Va., offered an update of a presentation that he admitted the firm had been using for 10 years.
Gershman noted that the timetables on many waste conversion projects mentioned in his presentation have moved ahead in 2012. That list includes an Enerkem waste-to-energy plant in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; the INEOS Bio plant in Vero Beach, Fla., which is beginning to ramp up; and a Plasco Energy Group waste conversion facility in Salinas Valley, Calif.
Many of the current projects involve conversion technologies that are not necessarily proven on a large-volume scale, noted Gershman. He also noted, though, that at least one major “mass burn” plant is under construction in the Durham-York region of Ontario, Canada.
One major project on which the plug has been pulled was a planned waste-to-energy plant in Port St. Lucie, Fla., noted Gershman.
Presenter Chris Koczaja of PHG Energy, LaVergne, Tenn., described PHG’s gasification technology and provided an update on the company’s recent projects. He described PHG’s gasification systems as providing “scalable, clean energy for large and small projects and waste streams.”
The company is installing a system in cooperation with the City of Covington, Tenn., to convert biosolids and wood trimmings into power that will be used to run the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Presenter Dirk Andreas of Montreal-based Enerkem touted the benefits of his company’s ability to convert several forms of waste into transportation fuel. “We feel the thermo-dynamic path is better, because there are more options as far as what end products we can produce,” said Andreas.
He said that, unlike corn ethanol, using waste as a feedstock creates transportation fuel “that does not compete with food” while still “displacing our reliance on petroleum.”
Andreas added that if the estimated 140 million tons of MSW generated in the U.S. was converted to fuel, it would result in some 14 billion gallons of ethanol.
Enerkem is currently building a plant that will convert the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada’s unrecyclable MSW into fuel and also has large-scale plants under construction in Pontotoc, Miss., and Varennes, Quebec, Canada (near Montreal).
The 2012 SWANA WasteCon event was held Aug. 14-16 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md.