July 31, 2007

Navigating to Zero Waste in California

The non-profit California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) recently held its 31st annual CRRA Conference and Trade Show in the coastal city of San Pedro in Los Angeles County attracting recycling professionals from throughout the state. The theme of this year's event was "Navigating to Zero Waste." As a global leader in the environmental sustainability field...
The CRRA works to expand markets for recycled materials, promotes sustainable materials policies and is a clearinghouse for information, innovation, and industry and governmental initiatives. CRRA newsletters, workshops and conferences provide up-to-the-minute information on issues that shape the recycling and composting fields.

Responding to the goals of California's landmark Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) of 1989 the CRRA is to be credited for helping communities throughout the state divert over 54% of its urban waste from landfills through recycling. What goes unrecorded is the amount of waste that never makes it to the municipal recovery facilities (MRFs) through many of the coordinated programs it has helped to foster and implement to significantly reduce the source of waste. This is achieved by identifying major sources of waste production and helping the producers recognize their responsibility to streamline wasteful and waste producing practices.

Unfortunately, "Navigating to Zero Waste" will never be reached simply through application of the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) using existing technologies at the rate at which waste grows in the state. Even if 60% of waste is diverted, the same principal volume is likely to remain. This threatens urban landfills like L.A.'s vast Puente Hills landfill (which will close in 2013) and a San Diego landfill (which will close in 2012) and other close proximity urban repositories. The remaining refuse will then be shipped at great expense and fuel usage to outlaying landfills as far as 200 miles away.

So it was heartening to see that two of the plenary speakers were Councilmember Greig Smith and California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) member Rosalie Mulé.

Greig is a refreshing example of a local politician who responds to the voting public by listening to their concerns, enlisting professionals to create a solution, and making sure that the solution gets significant political support that will outlive the terms of the signatories. L.A.'s 20-year RENEW LA plan obligates the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to divert unrecycled trash to biorefineries located at MRFs thereby reducing waste volume by 85% while co-generating electricity and very possibly producing biofuels (biooils and ethanol). He reported that selection of the exact technology to be implemented at the first site will be made later this summer.

Rosalie Mulé was appointed to the CIWMB by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger because of her experience working in the private sector waste industry. She reiterated the Board's commitment to advancing programs that minimize waste, manage landfills, promote producer responsibility, and maximize waste usage. She applauded the efforts of organizations such as CRRA to make California a leader in the world for how to create and implement recycling programs. During her speech she stated:
We also want to encourage innovations and technologies that will provide for the most efficient and effective management and reuse of material. There are a lot of new technologies on the horizon, some of them are proven and some of them are not but I like to compare them to space exploration. We would not have the things we have today had we not gone out there and conducted the research and done the exploration and navigated the uncharted waters.

It is time to move beyond the current established methods of waste reuse to develop new waste conversion alternatives. Many of these practices are being employed successfully in Europe and Japan where population density mandates technological solutions that place waste conversion facilities within close proximity to populated areas. We have the luxury of space but new popular standards, like AB32 the Global Warming Solutions Act, require renewed industry action on a timely basis.

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July 17, 2007

Biomass and BioWaste Conference in Pittsburg this September

I have been in touch with Dr. Ines Freesen about a new conference that her company is co-hosting that will take place between September 25-27th in Pittsburg, PA. While there is plenty of excitement about corn ethanol and the emerging technologies surrounding cellulosic ethanol, there is a dearth of press and conference content about the most revolutionary concept of all - converting municipal solid wastes, sludge, factory smoke, agricultural, and forestry waste into biofuels and electricity.

This blog is an attempt to partially correct that media deficiency but the real headway will be made when pioneers in the field of waste-to-energy congregate, network, and fully explore the potential.

According to the conference website:
"energy from biomass and waste" can make a significant contribution to oil-independence and climate protection with clean power, heat, and vehicle fuels. The technology opens up new earning potentials and markets (domestic & international) for the waste management & power generation industry, as well as for new market players such as the agricultural sector. With this event we want to create the leading North American showcase and educational forum for this growth business.

Here is the press release from last February (posted on the Renewable Energy Access website) about the German/American collaborators behind this event.

German-American Partnership To Promote Energy From Biomass and Waste
Freesen & Partner and Steel City Biofuels sign agreement to promote green energy, create international marketplace
Press Release from Freesen & Partner GmbH
Alpen,NRW, Germany / Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 21-Fe-07

The benefits of biofuels seem clear enough: they can provide a safe, sustainable domestic resource. But what does this mean for the business owner, for municipalities, the farm economy? How can the utilization of oilseed crops, switchgrass, manure, landfill gas, or residential waste make a significant contribution to save on energy and recycling costs, to reduce harmful emissions and create jobs?

Two partners from both sides of the Atlantic have joined forces to raise visibility for these issues and to create a forum that provides answers and practical assistance. Freesen & Partner GmbH, a Germany-based trade show organizer, and Steel City Biofuels, a Pennsylvania non-for-profit organization signed an agreement to use the EBW Expo & Conference, held on September 25-27, 2007 in Pittsburgh, PA to create an educational forum tailored to the information needs of multiple stakeholders.

The agreement was signed on February 15 as part of a ceremony for the signing of a Declaration of Cooperation between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of North-Rhine Westfalia (NRW). Dr. Ines Freesen, Managing Director of Freesen & Partner, and Nathaniel Doyno, Executive Director of Steel City Biofuels, were joined by Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and NRW Minister President Dr. Juergen Ruettgers.
"We are very excited about this new venture", comments Ines Freesen. "The time is right to think about what can be done with biomass and waste to reduce the world's unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels, and there could be no better place than Pennsylvania to hold the EBW Expo & Conference. Together with Steel City Biofuels we will create a truly international forum that offers hands-on information to a wide range of energy users and 'waste producers'."

"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Rendell and DEP Secretary McGinty Pennsylvania is poised to become a national leader in the production of energy from biomass and waste", says Nathaniel Doyno. "Steel City Biofuels is very excited to partner with Freesen & Partner on this venture because we feel that the EBW Expo provides an ideal platform to bring together the technology providers, energy users, investors, policy makers, and researchers that can really launch these industries."

The agreement is focused on:
- creating educational forums during EBW tailored to the needs of multiple stakeholders, including investors, farmers, green energy producers, cities and municipalities, businesses, students, and university researchers
- determining different options and media to promote the expo and conference to all relevant stakeholders in Pennsylvania, the United States, North-Rhine Westafalia, Germany, and other regions
- organizing site tours to bioenergy and energy-from-waste projects in South Western Pennsylvania during EBW
- develop business opportunities for Pennsylvania and German companies

About Freesen & Partner:
Freesen & Partner GmbH (F&P) is a consulting and event management firm specialized in the field of energy and environmental technology. F&P owns the "Energy from Biomass and Waste" (EBW) Expo & Conference, to be held on September 25-27, 2007 in Pittsburgh, PA. EBW's mission is to educate all relevant stakeholders about the ecological and economical benefits of clean energy, and to create an international marketplace for bioenergy and energy-from-waste technologies in Pennsylvania.

About Steel City Biofuels:
Steel City Biofuels, Inc. (SCB) is a project of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, Inc. that is building the awareness, policy and infrastructure necessary for the widespread production and use of biofuels in South Western Pennsylvania. SCB pursues this mission through education, demonstration, research, and advocacy. SCB's foundation is a diverse network of partnerships that link individuals, farmers, schools, non-profits, community organizations, businesses, and governmental agencies.

For Further Information
EBW Expo & Conference Website
Steel City Biofuels website
"waste to energy" website

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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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