Garbage Heavyweight Waste Management Gets Into Waste Gasification-to-Energy
photo: Julian via flickrWaste gasification-to-energy just got a bit of a boost: Waste Management has announced a joint venture to commercialize InEnTec's plasma gasification technology. The new company is called S4 Energy Solutions and expects to first targets specialized markets with waste that can't be disposed of in ordinary landfills (medical waste, that sort of thing). Since companies generating that sort of waste are already willing to pay more to dispose of it, the technology may be currently cost effective in these markets. Technology Review explains how it works:
InEnTec's technology, originally developed at MIT and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in Richland, WA, uses a multiple high-temperature processes--including subjecting garbage to plasma arcs--to break down organic materials into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Syngas can either be directly burned in gas turbines to produce electricity, or it can be converted into other fuels, including gasoline and ethanol. Metals and other inorganic materials in garbage can be isolated and recycled. The combination of high temperatures and an oxygen-poor environment that prevents the garbage from catching fire eliminates the production of dioxins and furans, two toxic chemicals produced during incineration.
Which is all fine and good, but there are a number of hurdles yet to be cleared, primarily financial—hence starting off at places that have to pay more to dispose of waste anyway. The hope is that eventually costs can be brought down to apply the technology to other markets, with the possibility of communities generating part of their own electricity making the procedure seem more attractive.
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