Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. plans to build its first commercial-scale thermochemical plant for converting municipal solid waste (MSW) to ethanol at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Storey County, Nevada. The project is expected to cost approximately $120 million and is set to enter construction by the end of this year. When it begins operations in early 2010, the Sierra BioFuels plant is expected to produce approximately 10.5 million gallons of ethanol per year, and to process nearly 90,000 tons per year of MSW.
The plant will utilize gasification technology licensed from InEnTec (previously Integrated Environmental Technologies) and a licensed proprietary catalytic technology jointly developed by Nipawin Biomass Ethanol New Generation Co-operative Ltd. and Saskatchewan Research Council for the conversion of the resulting syngas to fuels.
|The relative locations of the AC resistive heating and DC plasma-arc heating electrodes in the InEnTec PEM system, and the areas in which the two heating types take place. Click to enlarge.|
InEnTec offers a Plasma-Enhanced Melter (PEM) that combines a DC (direct current) arc plasma zone and the AC (alternating current) joule-heated zone to gasify waste. Waste enters the process chamber and falls through the high temperature plasma to a molten glass surface, forming a pile where the waste material continues to be exposed to energy from the DC plasma plus the joule-heated glass.
Steam is injected into the process chamber plenum, in the region of the waste pile, to steam reform organic constituents into CO, H2, HCl, N2 and H2S. Inorganic oxides dissolve into the glass phase. Metals present in the waste melt and settle to bottom of the tank.
The relative fraction of power from the two sources is controlled by the operator, and may be varied to accommodate a variety of wastes being processed. Wastes that contain a high percentage of organic material require a higher percentage of power from the DC plasma, while wastes that contain a high fraction of inorganic material will be processed with a higher fraction of processing power from the joule-heated glass tank.
Separately, the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recently signed a 25-year agreement with GreenField Ethanol, Canada’s largest ethanol producer and Enerkem, the developer of a thermochemical (gasification and catalytic synthesis) process to produce synthetic fuels, for a facility to produce biofuels from municipal solid waste (MSW). This C$70 million facility will initially produce 36 million liters (9.5 million gallons US) of ethanol per year, according to the partners. As part of the agreement, the City of Edmonton will supply a minimum of 100,000 tonnes of sorted municipal solid waste per year. (Earlier post.)
Wismer, M.; Johnston, M.; Judd-Henrey (2006) Lifecycle Analysis of Bio-Ethanol Production in Nipawin, SK Using Effluent Irrigated Plantations as Feedstock, EIC Climate Change Technology, 2006 IEEE doi: 10.1109/EICCCC.2006.277220