Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Enerkem and Waste Management: Waste to Biofuels

Waste to biofuels just got a big boost from garbage giant Waste Management, in the form of a $51 million investment to Enerkem. Enerkem's biomass and waste to liquids process -- pictured above -- uses thermochemical processes to turn potentially large volumes of waste into clean and useful fuels, and high value chemicals.
Enerkem uses a thermochemical gasification process to produce a uniform syngas, which is subsequently converted into liquid fuels, such as ethanol, as well as biochemicals. The technology is able to process diverse carbon-based feedstocks, including sorted municipal solid waste, construction and demolition wood, as well as agricultural and forest residues. Enerkem’s technology can convert one tonne of raw material (dry base) into 360 liters (95 gallons) of cellulosic ethanol.

Enerkem’s gasification technology is based on a bubbling fluidized bed reactor with a front-end feeding system that is capable of handling fluffy material with no need to pelletize it. Slurries or liquids can also be fed into the gasifier through appropriately designed injectors. The gasification is carried out using air as a partial oxidation agent or using oxygen-enriched air, with the oxygen-enrichment level tailored to the desired composition of the synthetic gas. The presence of steam at a specific partial pressure is also part of the process...

...Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. The investment in Enerkem complements Waste Management’s comprehensive waste services in the areas of recycling, landfill, waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy. _GCC
This Biofuels Digest story provides a projection of the near-term growth in biofuels production across an array of approaches. Includes an interesting graph.

Clearly ethanol has a head start. But biomass to liquids and microbial fuels -- such as algal fuels -- are on the front burner and ready to take off.

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