Garbage In, Diesel Out
Sshhh! Come over here. I'll tell you a secret if you promise: a) not to run right out and buy a new SUV and/or b) to pony up 3.6 million euro ($4.3M) for my perpetual motion machine. Always optimistic, we treehuggers are often at risk of being sucked in to believing crazy claims or at least subject to great disappointment when our radar for bull by-product goes to high alert. But could the technology be taking a step closer to reality? Making highly visible rounds through the German media is a new firm, Alphakat (German only) and partner Nanokat (German/English), claiming to achieve 23 euro cents per liter ($1.00 per gallon) production costs with a 500L/hour unit already on the ground. And for the little man: the company is setting up for small investors to buy shares of a fund to drive the technology to the market.
The technology relies on catalysts to allow the low temperature (260 -360 C) depolymerization and building of carbon chains into the lengths which can be refined to oils meeting European standards for the use in the average automobile. Particularly interesting is the claims of those involved in the catalytic conversion technologies that the problem of chlorides (the "baddies" in the always troublesome PVC) are avoided: the chlorine comes out in the liquid/solid waste stream as salt rather than going up the stack as pcbs like in municipal burners.
Plagued by the usual red-tape problems which entrepreneurs must fight, expecially if they are collecting, storing and processing wastes, Dr. Christian Koch claims to now have permits for the pilot process in Bavaria. They have sold the first 500L/hour unit to a private investor in Monterrey Mexico and claim more contracts are proceeding. Some reports indicate the pumping technology is glitchy and the Monterrey unit is processing only waste oils, a much easier feedstock than the household garbage or water treatment sludge which Alphakat claims to process with 80% efficiency (meaning 80% of carbons converted to oil in this case). Part of the normal learning curve or a business man pushing too hard to keep his dream alive? Whichever the case, this is a budding innovation, which in the face of skyward shooting fuel prices is going to keep picking up steam. Treehugger reported on the efforts of Changing World Technologies in this field earlier. Alphakat is another name to watch.