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Fulcrum BioEnergy to Build First Municipal Solid Waste-to-Ethanol Plant in Nevada

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



Excellent, excellent idea. Here's another supplier of waste: I saw a special recently on the Discovery Channel or History Channel showing how the City of New York's Department of Sanitation sorts hundreds of tons of garbage per year, compacts it, puts it in massive containers & then on trains, and sends it upstate or out of state for disposal. New York City is a Saudi Arabia of garbage!

Henry Gibson

It is very good that this waste organic material is not going to be deposited in landfills where it can rot for millennia producing toxic chemicals to be released into the air and soak into the ground.

It is possible that many of the tons of waste that will be processed in this proposed factory will come from out of state. They will contain many pounds of deadly chemical poisons that could kill a person in a few minutes. There will be also many pounds of deadly bacteria that have produced bio-toxins such as botulinin. Some deadly parts of the waste will last for millions of years even after processing. I am surprised that US senators from the state and local officials have not made arrangements to forbid the transport of such deadly materials on the roads and railroads of the non-sovereign state of NEVADA and its cities. ..HG..


Because of my job I have am interest in waste-to-energy.
Here are some links I've collected in exchange for the one you just gave me;


Do you ever stop to consider that we may not be able to tell you're being sarcastic.
You are aren’t you?
But seriously, this will drive up the cost of garbage throughout the world, and the people in developing countries, those least able to afford it, will be hit the hardest.


Please stop to consider that we may not be sharp enough to tell you're being sarcastic.
You are aren’t you?
But seriously, this will drive up the cost of garbage throughout the world, and the people in developing countries, those least able to afford it, will be hit the hardest.


Excellent approach to get rid of harmful wastes while creating useful energy and other required by-products.

Americans and Canadians are probably the highest world's waste (per capita) creators.

I wouln't be surprised that many of us could eventually drive part of the way to work and back with the energy extracted from our mountain of house wastes, if our future cars are more efficient.


Without these kinds of technologies, we are doomed to a Buy N' Large, WALL-E world loaded with mountains of garbage....then humans will have to leave earth & get fat on an gigantic intergalactic cruise ship!


Most of the energy from this is reclaimed energy that went into making it. Using old tires is similar. It can take a barrel of oil to make a truck tire and you only get a bit of it back. A bit is better than none, but it takes energy to create the plasma.

I think this is good though. I heard a speech given by a former technical officer for Chevron on C-Span. He said that a 100,000 barrel per day coal to liquids plant could cost as much as $10 billion dollars. It will come down to who can do it most efficiently.


At that high temperatures, applications are myraid to non-recyclable plastics, worned-out tyres, municipal organic wastes, industrial chemical (hazardous included)wastes, and other organic wastes.
Using plasma technology process is one of the solutions to address the waste resources that are currently disposed by land-fills, waste-recycling, conventional waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.
Like all new applications of this technology, the project financial viability needs to be addressed together with proven reference plants.
Perhaps some of you may provide a list of reference plants that uses plasma technology for organic wastes.


GM 's sudden stewardship of the environment is simply a way to continue to make gas guzzlers thanks to E85 an extremely inefficient fuel. The CAFE standards call for all car companies to achieve an average MPG for all vehicles. I believe the most recent number is 27 MPG. Well if you make the biggest money off of 10 miles per gallon SUV's you would hate to say good bye to them wouldn't you?
The CAFE standards has a loophole, that being that an E85 vehicle operating on E85 miles per gallon are ONLY figured against the actual amount of gasoline in the blend (15%) if you divide 100% fuel by 15% gasoline you get the multiplier to the mpg (666) therefore a gas guzzling 10 MPG SUV is given credit for 66.6 MPG. If you sell one SUV like this you can have 5 vehicles only achieving 20 MPG and this gas guzzling SUV and you average more than 27 MPG overall while not one of their vehicles really met the standard.
GM is not the only one taking advantage of this free ride Ford and Chrysler are too. The big three are heading down the toilet and this is just their hands clinging to the rim.


"The CAFE standards has a loophole, that being that an E85 vehicle operating on E85 miles per gallon are ONLY figured against the actual amount of gasoline in the blend (15%)"

Which wouldn't be too bad if they were honest and included the fossil fuels used to produce the ethanol in the calulation. I heard the EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) of corn ethanol is almost 1:1


I heard more like 1.3 to one on an energy basis. Let's say it takes 1 unit of oil to make 2 units of ethanol. A 100 units of E85 would have 85 units of ethanol or 42.5 units of oil and the 15 units of gasoline which might take 20 units of oil. So 42.5 + 20 = 62.5 units of oil. A yield of .8 for converting oil to gasoline would be 62.5 x 0.8 or about 50 units of gasoline.

If the car could go 1500 miles on 100 gallons of E85 we would say it got 15 mpg of E85 or we could say it got 100 mpg from gasoline. A more accurate figure might be 30 mpg, if calculated using oil equivalents. These are not accurate numbers, but are used to illustrate a point. The point is that we need to be honest about the numbers. Just like plug hybrids do NOT get 200 mpg.


Why they mention that they will produce ethanol. I wen to the web side of that company that make this reactor ( InEnTec ). They do not mention anything about ethanol.

The plasma system splitting all the complex chemical compounds to simple one like methane.
Very effective and clean method.


Why is it that every time a story is posted at this website which has information on viable non-corn based ethanol, people always digress into a off-topic corn-based ethanol discussion? To me, that is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discredit all ethanol’s when in fact ethanol can be part of the solution to ending our dependence on foreign oil.

If Brazil can do it, the U.S. can too. And it doesn't need to be about corn all the time.


Compact Wal-Mart & ship it for processing.

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