NREL
 

Plant That Makes Fuel Out Of Garbage and Waste Called A Success

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Golden, Colo., May 5, 1999 — The final report on a demonstration of a technology for turning organic wastes into fuel, energy and other products calls the project a success and concludes there are no major issues standing in the way of the technology being commercialized on a larger scale.

The report is on the operation of the high solids anaerobic digester (HSAD) in Stanton, Calif. The pilot facility is based on technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and managed by Bioengineering Resources, Inc. Pinnacle Biotechnologies International, Inc. operated the plant.

The digester is a closed, nearly odorless system that uses naturally occurring microorganisms to convert waste—including trash from landfills and various wastes and sludges—into a fuel gas that is 55 percent methane and 45 percent carbon dioxide. The gas can be used for heat, to run a turbine to generate electricity or as a transportation fuel.

Pathogens in the food processing sludge are sanitized and leftover organic material is a high-quality compost and fertilizer.

The report, "Recycling and Energy Recovery Pilot Project - Project Report and Future Efforts" summarizes the digester's successes:

  • The plant was operated over an extended period of time using actual municipal solid waste and food processing wastes.
  • The plant was operated close to neighbors in a light industrial area with essentially no complaints regarding odor, noise or vehicle traffic.
  • Numerous issues regarding equipment integration were identified and resolved, paving the way for a refined commercial system development
  • The HSAD system consistently produced high-quality fuel gas.
  • The implementation of comprehensive operating and safety procedures resulted in few unexpected complications.

The report concludes, "The information gained...will surely enhance the subsequent development of commercial scale HSAD plants by reducing the perceived risk associated with emerging technologies."

The report also details challenges the plant's operators encountered during its initial run. The pilot plant finished its initial testing phase last spring when its original project funding ran out.

NREL researchers estimate many of the 5,000 municipal sewage treatment plants in the United States could also use the HSAD technology, a potential market of $1 billion. Other potential customers include food processors and waste haulers, who must now transport waste to landfills or other disposal sites.

Copies of the report—#SR-570-26158—can be obtained by contacting Sally Evans in NREL's Document Distribution Service, 303-275-4363, or by E-mail.

For more information on the technology, contact Pinnacle Biotechnologies, 303-674-3236, or by E-mail.

NR-02499