A technology company, a county official and a solid waste consultant give their takes on waste-to-energy as a waste diversion and energy solution.
Many technologies that convert energy from waste have had a difficult time
proving successful on the commercial level. So was the topic of discussion at the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum. During a session titled “Alternative Views” three panelists gave their perspectives and experiences on the subject.
David Coscia of the Los Angeles County Public Works, Environmental Programs Division, discussed the C&D ordinance in effect for the county. The ordinance requires demolition and grading projects to attain a 50 percent diversion rate, and new construction must attain a 65 percent diversion rate. He said that in 2010 projects achieved a 93 percent recycling rate, diverting more than 53,100 tons of debris.
He also provided some waste-to-energy options for the remaining C&D material that is not diverted. Unrecyclable wood, for example, can be processed via technologies such as gasification or hydrolysis into electricity or fuels such as ethanol, he said. Unrecyclable metals can be processed via pyrolysis or plasma arc gasification into a non-hazardous metal slag. The slag could be used in the production of roofing materials, sandblasting grit, or asphalt filler.
“CTs (conversion technologies) are an integral component of Los Angeles County’s long-term diversification strategy,” said Coscia. He adds, the county has worked with a C&D recycling facility in the county, IRS Demo, South Gate, Calif., to review its waste stream and facility operations in order to make recommendations about potential technology vendors that could specifically handle C&D waste.
He directed attendees to www.socalconversion.org
for more information on L.A. County’s strategy.
Following Coscia’s presentation, Mike Hart, founder of Sierra Energy, Davis, Calif., discussed some of the waste products and emissions produced in traditional waste-to-energy technologies before telling attendees about a solution his company has developed that is derived from steelmaking blast furnace.
He said that a single unit can turn municipal solid waste, C&D and medical waste into a syngas that can be converted into fuel, hydrogen, electricity and other chemicals.
Bob Brickner, executive vice president of Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), Fairfax, Va., gave several examples of where “proven” conversion technologies are being advanced. These include completed expansions to mass-burn WTE facilities in Hillsborough and Lee counties in Florida; Olmsted County, Minn.; and plants under construction in Honolulu, Durham/York, Ontario and Palm Beach County, Fla.
He added that GBB is tracking 591 companies that offer conversion technology or development services worldwide. This number, Brickner added, is steadily growing. GBB also estimates 150 conversion companies are operating either commercial or demonstration facilities worldwide. Included in this number are:
- Enerkem in Westbury, Calif; Pontotoc, Miss.; and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;
- Fulcrum Bioenergy/Sierra BioFuels in McCarran, Nev.; INEOS Bio in Fayettville, Ark.; Vero Beach, Fla.; and Lake County, Ind.; and
- Plasco Energy Group in Ottawa.
Along with the successes, Brickner pointed out there are a number of companies that have struggled to prove their conversion technologies. He talked about Terrabon, based in Houston, filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy earlier in the year. Other companies which Brickner deemed as “hard times firms” include:
- Geoplasma, with whom St. Lucie County recently terminated its agreement;
- Ze-Gen, which suspended its Attleboro, Mass., first 50,000 tons per year (tpy) commercial project development (syngas to electricity) as competitive natural gas prices kept declining and there was some local citizen opposition; and
- R3 Environmental, selected in 2010 by New Hanover County, N.C., for a 200,000-plus tpy project for $20 million, ultimately could not get financing and forfeited $380,000 bond to the county in March 2011
The C&D Recycling Forum was Sept. 23-25 at the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center, Long Beach, Calif.