Thursday, March 11, 2010

Garbage to Energy in Oregon

The Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon is already generating energy in two ways today. First, it is the home to 67 wind turbines. Second, the methane gas generated by the decomposing waste in the landfill is captured and used to power a  6 megawatt (MW) generator. This electricity powers about 5,000 homes.

A third method of generating energy is planned for the Columbia Ridge Landfill. S4 Energy Solutions, a joint venture by Waste Management, Inc. and InEnTec, have announced plans to develop a plasma gasification facility. The system will convert municipal solid waste into fuels and energy. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2010, with full power-on scheduled by year's end.

The waste material is prepared and fed into a first phase gasification chamber that operates at temperatures of approximately 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. After the first phase, the waste material flows into a second chamber where they are superheated to between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the second stage plasma gasifier transforms the molecular structure of the waste to create synthesis gas (syngas). The syngas can then be converted into transportation fuels such as ethanol or diesel, or industrial products like hydrogen and methanol. The syngas could also be used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation. Any inorganic materials are transformed into environmentally inert by-products.

"Our goal is to extract as much value as possible from waste and this project will help us recover valuable resources to generate clean fuels, renewable energy and other beneficial products," said Dean Kattler, area vice president for Waste Management Pacific Northwest.

Together with Waste Management's other renewable energy initiatives, the joint venture has moved Waste Management toward meeting two of their sustainability goals, doubling their renewable energy production to a energy equivalent of powering two million homes by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste. It is also complementary to Waste Management's comprehensive waste services in the areas of recycling, landfill, and waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy capabilities.

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