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Waste Management Makes Strategic Investment in Waste-to-Fuels Company Enerkem

The Enerkem process has four steps: feedstock pre-treatment; gasification; syngas conditioning; and conversion. Click to enlarge.

Waste Management has made a strategic investment in Enerkem, a developer of a thermochemical (gasification and catalytic synthesis) process to produce synthetic fuels and chemicals from biomass and waste, as part of Enerkem’s new financing round.

The closing of this new round of financing, which generated C$53.8 million (US$51 million) comes from Enerkem’s existing institutional investors—Rho Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures and BDR Capital—as well as from new investors Waste Management and Cycle Capital. The new funds raised will be used to support Enerkem’s growth plan, including initiating the construction of its second waste-to-biofuels plant. Morgan Stanley acted as Enerkem’s agent.

Enerkem uses a thermochemical gasification process to produce a uniform syngas, which is subsequently converted into liquid fuels, such as ethanol, as well as biochemicals. The technology is able to process diverse carbon-based feedstocks, including sorted municipal solid waste, construction and demolition wood, as well as agricultural and forest residues. Enerkem’s technology can convert one tonne of raw material (dry base) into 360 liters (95 gallons) of cellulosic ethanol.

Enerkem’s gasification technology is based on a bubbling fluidized bed reactor with a front-end feeding system that is capable of handling fluffy material with no need to pelletize it. Slurries or liquids can also be fed into the gasifier through appropriately designed injectors. The gasification is carried out using air as a partial oxidation agent or using oxygen-enriched air, with the oxygen-enrichment level tailored to the desired composition of the synthetic gas. The presence of steam at a specific partial pressure is also part of the process.

The gasifier operates at low severities (temperatures of approximately 700 ºC and pressures below 10 atm), which allows for the use of known, available, and inexpensive construction materials and refractories.

The produced syngas gas is cleaned and conditioned for use with existing and known catalysts using a sequential conditioning system which includes cyclonic removal of inerts, secondary carbon/tar conversion, heat recovery units, and reinjection of tar/fines into the reactor.

The syngas is converted to products using a sequential catalytic conversion process.

We want to extract more value from the materials we manage than anyone else in our industry through new and emerging processing and conversion technologies. Combining Waste Management's industry leadership and expertise in the collection and management of a wide range of segmented waste streams with Enerkem's leading clean technology solutions, we are broadening our portfolio of conversion technologies in the waste-to-biofuels market which is key to developing new, higher value added end markets for materials.

—Tim Cesarek, managing director of Organic Growth at Waste Management

In December 2009, Enerkem was awarded US$50 million in funding by the US Department of Energy for development of its planned Mississippi plant. Its commercial-scale demonstration facility in Westbury, Canada, which was completed in 2009, reached 1,000 hours of operation. The new funds raised will be used to support Enerkem’s growth plan, including construction of its second plant, in partnership with the City of Edmonton and Alberta Innovates. (Earlier post.)

Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America. The investment in Enerkem complements Waste Management’s comprehensive waste services in the areas of recycling, landfill, waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy. This investment will also help move Waste Management toward meeting three of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production and tripling the amount of recyclables processed by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste.



This sounds like a robust method of gasification. Gasification is good because of its versatility. You can use many feed stocks and make many products. I was told that this technology was past its time and could never take feed stocks with moisture, well that seems to have been wrong.

Henry Gibson

Livio Dante Porta, a locomotive builder, invented a similar process to make combustable gases from low grade coal to operate steam locomotive boilers at their highest power in Argentina. He used steam and air to make the gases which then were burned at higher efficiency than the raw coal could be burned. He also treated the water in the boiler with the correct chemicals to give very long life to the boilers. Such locomotives could give much lower purchase cost and operating costs than modern locomotives. The smoke was cleaner too, but China abandoned their locomotive factories before they built such locomotives.

The Kitson-Still locomotive operating on producer gas from Coal-Coke would be very cheap, clean and economical. The tars from making the coke could be used to make petrol. ..HG..

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