July 16, 2007

Envirepel: Gasified waste-to-electricity in San Diego

I received a welcomed message from Anthony Arand, CEO of Envirepel Energy, Inc. who wished to clarify and expand on what has been reported here on the SDG&E press release:

I enjoyed reading your columns in trying to figure out what is our company really up to. Biomass diversion contracts? Honestly, that is the first time I have heard that terminology applied to a utility or us. Please allow me to fill you in on some of the specifics.

In San Diego County green waste is diverted as is all MSW waste via recycling, it has nothing to do with the Utility. SDG&E is after Renewable Portfolio Standard qualified suppliers of electricity, plain and simple. The connection of green waste and energy projects being restricted to green waste is incorrect.

There hasn't been a new combustion design for any type of solid feed stocks in over 50 years, the one we selected was first published in 1912, and this is where people tend to focus the discussion, on the technology. Think of it this way, people compare cars for horsepower, performance and emissions in a discussion about the type of engine the car has.....how many times have you heard them discuss the suspension, braking system, catalytic converter material selection, radiator size, or pressure drop across the system that allows the "car" to perform ?

You really don't care what technology you use, you care that the integration of those technologies (the system) works together to deliver the goals of the project. The key to clean energy generation with low emissions is to design a facility from top to bottom for that purpose using multiple technologies that when combined deliver what you want. That is what our company has done, and it is not typical to an industry controlled by bankers who don't care about the environment, and don't want to spend a nickel more than absolutely necessary to make money from a project.

Here are the design targets we set out to deliver with our facility design:

1. It can't produce emissions numbers above 15 ppm of regulated pollutants to stay under the air emissions offset thresholds for a 60 MW facility
2. It can't produce noise emissions (it has to be quiet and not bother the neighbors)
3. The fuel can't smell up the neighbor hood (ie, keep it inside the building)
4. The building has to stay under 45 feet tall from a land use building code perspective with all the equipment inside
5. After initial start up and capacity testing is complete, the solid fuel facility has to be dispatchable from zero capacity to full capacity in under 10 minutes
6. The facility has to be able to process and operate on any fuel stock (biomass includes wood, green waste, MSW, and non-recyclables)
7. A structural safety factor of three on all designs (earthquake country), and a performance safety factor of two on all system components, especially the emissions systems (reliability through redundant capacity)
8. All equipment, facility layout, and employee related safety issues are compliant with OSHA
9. Zero discharge facility from a water use or rainfall run-off facility.
10. Harvest as many pollutants and green house gases in the exhaust system as can be collected for re-use and resale (don't let money go out the exhaust)

We selected a modified gasification combustion system capable of running on any feed stocks to meet the needs of the facility design and are permitting the first ones on green waste to prove out the facility design before we construct facilities on landfills that run on post-recycled MSW.

Normally a developer only develops the site, somebody else builds it, a couple of banks then own it, and some poor schmuck gets selected to operate it and prays to the heavens that the guys the "developed" it didn't forget crucial issues on the equipment design and layout.

We chose not to go that route and went down the path to design, build, own and operate our facilities. That means we staffed up with engineers, planning, fabrication, machine shop equipment, and set about building our own equipment for our own projects.

We have operated our one to one scale demonstration test cell to show that the combustion system produces the low emissions we claimed, and our first facility in Vista will demonstrate how the system works when producing electricity with all the rest of the system equipment hooked up. The next three smaller projects are also all on green waste (easy to get and no significant air emissions issues) that allow us to flush out any design problems with the system (i.e are the bearings big enough on the conveyor belts, or is one grinder really capable of holding up to the load or should we use two types of operational and reliability issues).

After that, the system fuel stock shifts to post recycled MSW on all future sites, which happen to be landfills, and we help California truly become a Zero Waste State.

I hope that helps shed a little light on what we are doing.

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