A company that says it can turn garbage into synfuels and use the excess heat to create steam-generated electricity is moving closer to building a demonstration plant in Maryland. I recently spoke to David Freund, the vice president for business development of W2 Energy. The project, still in the permitting stage, uses a gasification process that’s been around in various forms for generations that has been updated with W2 patents.
But a little modern economic analysis and dollars-and-cents projections could get it some attention. Its studies project that its steam generators can generate .72 megawatt-hours of electricity from every metric ton of solid waste. Synfuels might be produced at 63 cents a gallon. But W2 is now seeking financing for its next round of project development. That could come in Maryland, as W2 and officials from Laurel, Maryland have been meeting to discuss operational issues for a four tone per day plant, as well as land use and requirements related to land use and solid waste handling. It now is seeking approvals from the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection. Carbon credits and their certification will also be determined. As a municipality, Laurel cannot sell the electricity generated but W2 can.
The four-ton-per-day plant Laurel would be mobile and the size of a tractor trailer, and would take about six months to fabricate in the company’s Guelph, Ontario, shop. “If successful, then a permanent station would be built, and one that could accept waste from surrounding towns,” Freund says.
The multi-stage process goes like this: the NT Plasmatron converts the feedstock (which could also be coal, or human or animal waste) into syngas (H2 + CO), and ash; syngas is converted into diesel fuel, gasoline and/or JP8 jet fuel, and the excess heat energy is used to create electricity; the electricity is generated by the SteamRay Rotary Engine which runs on flashed steam; and CO2 gas bubbles through the SunFilter Algae Reactor, which is recirculated to create more syngas and electricity.
Calculations from it have a 29-percent engineering efficiency from its steam engine. The reactors operate at 700 degrees Fahrenheit, well below some processes that require 30,000 F, a tremendous energy savings. While those types of steam generators are only made in China now, that’s the typical efficiency rating. Based upon estimates done for W2 Energy by their engineering partner, one metric ton of municipal solid waste will be able to generate 101.25 gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel, JP8 jet fuel and electricity from steam generated by heat recovery. This is not an entirely original concept, with several competitors, including well-financed multinationals like Sasol investigating the technology.