Thursday, May 15, 2008

Garbage to Ethanol Picking Up

Garbage is gaining value as fuel feedstock, in addition to more traditional recycling of aluminium, glass, and plastic. Using a variety of processing methods, more companies are looking into converting garbage to ethanol and biodiesel.
CleanTech Biofuels is developing a multistep process designed to take municipal solid waste from a transfer station and turn out ethanol on the other side.
The company recently purchased the equipment and found a site in Golden, Colo., to test it using trash, as well other agricultural and forest wastes, to make ethanol. On Tuesday, it said that it trying to identify a site near landfills and garbage haulers to construct a commercial plant.

Within two years, the company expects to move from a proof-of-concept plant to a commercial plant, said Michael Kime, the company's chief operating officer.

"We can literally take a truck with curbside garbage and put it almost exactly as-is into our vessels--we just have to take out the large things like refrigerators," Kime said.

A number of projects have been proposed in the United States and Canada to convert solid waste into ethanol, using different techniques.

BlueFire Ethanol is a cellulosic-ethanol company that uses a proprietary acid hydrolysis process to break down organic wastes. It intends to start construction of a commercial-scale, 3.1 million gallon-per-year facility in Lancaster, Calif., which will be located next to a landfill.

Using gasification and enzymes, start-up Coskata said it can convert municipal solid trash into ethanol as well. In its first demonstration plant in Pennsylvania, Coskata intends to demonstrate its ethanol system using trash - and separately, wood chips - as a feedstock in less than a year, said Wes Bolsen, the vice president of business development and marketing at Coskata. __CheckBiotech
Thermochemical processing and gasification techniques can turn just about any type of carbon into hydrocarbons and alcohols. It is a matter of ingenuity combined with time to scale up processes and secure financing and regulatory permits.

For North America, the new energy processing plants have come along at precisely the right time--when large parts of the manufacturing sector have been moved overseas for cheaper labour and fewer litigational and regulatory hazards caused by government and a labyrinthine legal system. In China, regulatory problems can be made to disappear with a proper bribe.



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