Sierra Energy Corporation closed a $33-million Series A investment round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and joined by Cox Investment Holdings, Inc., BNP Paribas SA, Twynam Investments Pty Ltd, Formica Ventures AB, and The March Fund I LP. The funding will help Sierra Energy further develop and commercialize its FastOx gasification technology, which converts virtually any waste into clean, renewable energy and fuels without burning.
FastOx technology, developed by Sierra Energy and supported by grant funding from the Department of Defense and the California Energy Commission, uses oxygen and steam to heat waste to 4,000°F (2,200°C). At this temperature, all waste breaks down at the molecular level, converting organic material into an energy-dense syngas and allowing the recovery of inorganic material as either a non-leaching stone or molten metal.
Waste is fed into the top of the gasifier vessel through an airlock. Purified oxygen and steam are injected into the base. The gasification reaction occurs at temperatures around 2,200°C (4,000°F). As the waste descends within the gasifier, it passes through several reaction zones reaching the hottest area at the base. In each zone, different materials are driven off. At the lowest point of the gasifier, the waste is reduced to carbon char, inorganic materials, and metals.
Injected oxygen and steam react with the carbon char to produce a synthesis gas (syngas), comprised predominately of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This reaction is highly exothermic, meaning that it releases a large amount of energy in the form of heat. The syngas and heat rise through the gasifier, interacting with the waste as it descends through the vessel. Syngas exits the top of the gasifier vessel and into the heat recovery and gas cleaning isles.
At the base of the gasifier, inorganic materials and metals collect in a molten state. This molten liquid is periodically tapped out and cools into a vitrified stone that is very similar in appearance to volcanic rock and suitable for use in landscaping or as construction material aggregate.
A key innovation of FastOx gasification is the optimized rate and position of oxygen and steam injection into the gasifier. This drives the complete conversion of waste into its molecular constituents without the production of any major byproducts that require additional disposal. The ultra high temperatures and the use of purified oxygen (as opposed to nitrogen-rich ambient air) avoids greenhouse gas emissions because it eliminates nitrogen from the process and preventing the formation of harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Sierra Energy’s FastOx technology, which is modular and can be scaled to large size, does not produce process emissions and all outputs are saleable. The company’s first commercial-scale demonstration facility is located at US Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County, California.
The world is drowning in trash which, when landfilled, is a leading generator of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more harmful to our climate than carbon dioxide. Our FastOx gasification technology can efficiently and cost-effectively convert this trash into electricity, hydrogen, renewable natural gas, diesel, ammonia, and a variety of other valuable end-products. When you combine our technology with recycling and other waste diversion strategies, you have the solution to the world’s waste problem as well as a valuable source of renewable energy.—Mike Hart, Sierra Energy’s CEO
One of FastOx gasification’s greatest advantages is a proven ability to handle nearly any type of waste, including municipal solid waste, plastics, medical waste, e-waste, tires, batteries, railroad ties, and even hazardous wastes. This feedstock flexibility, and the capacity to turn produced syngas into a variety of high-value end products, makes FastOx gasification versatile and economically efficient to implement. Local developers configure the system to match local market needs.
Because Sierra Energy’s FastOx gasifier is based on well-understood blast furnace technology, it is also robust, with long up-times and low maintenance requirements.
Sierra Energy was founded in Davis, California in 2004.