I thought you would appreciate this article about gasification projects in
Melissa Meehan Baldwin
The Environmental PR Group
OrlandoSentinel.com Excrement into energy? Sanford, Marion County try new
sources of power
Sentinel Staff Writer
March 3, 2009
Gables;at=Petroleum Industry;at=Energy Saving;at=Engineering;at=Charles
Lee;at=Environmental Pollution;at=Environmental Politics;at=Waste Management
Incorporated;at=Marion County Indiana;at=Virginia;at=Environmental
Issues;at=Waste;at=Material Science;at=Paul Moore;at=West Virginia;at=US
Excrement into energy?
In two Central Florida counties, it's the new source of power.
In Sanford, heated sewage will fuel its own treatment process at the
wastewater treatment plant.
In Marion County, known for its many horse farms and stables, the process
would go a step further, creating electricity from manure and wood waste to
power about 1,400 homes.
Both projects involve MaxWest Environmental Systems, a Texas company that
uses a technique called gasification to draw power from unwanted materials
and reduce the volume of waste. Gasification is different from burning
methane created by landfills or incinerating garbage to produce energy —
techniques in use in Central Florida for years. Pollution from incineration
is more difficult to control, experts say. The emissions from MaxWest's
Sanford project are expected to be so minimal the state Department of
Environmental Protection doesn't require an air permit.
Charles Lee, advocacy director for Audubon of Florida, said that project
offers a two-fold solution.
"Energy that's produced from a source like this is energy that won't be
produced from a fossil fuel. ... The second benefit that will take place
here is that you will eliminate the pollution problem that comes from the
presence of [spreading] this material on farm fields throughout the state."
Although many of MaxWest's projects use organic waste, gasification of
garbage has gotten more attention recently, some of it controversial.
Because the systems require large volumes of waste, some environmentalists
worry that they could shift priorities away from recycling and reducing the
amount of waste generated.
A massive St. Lucie County gasifier was planned to power 15 cities, but
Atlanta-based Geoplasma Inc. told the county it wanted to scale back last
fall, and a formal proposal has yet to come before county commissioners. In
January, Sacramento's City Council voted to stop working with U.S. Science &
Technology on a gasification plan; council members said they were skeptical
about financing and the technology.
More Florida governments are considering new types of waste-to-energy
projects. Coral Gables is researching ways of turning garbage and yard waste
into diesel fuel, said Dan Keys, the city's public service director. Waste
Management, a national company that operates in Central Florida, is also
testing gasification, according to a spokeswoman.
MaxWest says it's already operating at a West Virginia chicken farm, where
bird droppings are used as fuel to control temperatures in the barn. A
Canada project will gasify nonrecyclable plastics to heat water used for
recycling other plastics.
Marion County, which calls itself the "Horse Capital of the World," has long
struggled with the disposal of stall waste. Last year, the Florida
Thoroughbred Breeders' & Owners' Association teamed with MaxWest to plan
their gasification project, and last week the governor's Energy & Climate
Commission had awarded the partners a $2.5 million grant. The county may
offer public land for the facility, though it hasn't been voted on yet.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, gasification is an
old process. It was used to turn coal into gas about 150 years ago. But
researchers are finding new ways to use it.
Clifford Fedler, a professor at Texas Tech University who has researched
gasification, said he wasn't aware of any other sewage treatment plants that
were using the technique. Overall, he said it has good potential but could
be limited by the cost and the need for a constant flow of large volumes of
waste. But, he said, it's a piece of the energy puzzle that doesn't rely on
weather, like solar and wind energy.
"We're not going to stop the cows from doing what they do every day," he
said. "And the same thing holds true for people."
Sanford hasn't spent money on the project. MaxWest is investing $2.5 million
and building the gasifier. The city will pay $280,000 annually for the
generated fuel. Though that's about what the city would spend on natural
gas, it protects the city from price fluctuations and saves money on
disposal of treated sewage, said Paul Moore, the city's public utilities
director. He said Sanford could also boost revenues by taking in waste from
other cities. MaxWest hopes to use the Sanford project as a national model.
"I've gotten a lot of calls from other places that are interested in it,"
Moore said. "I think we're going to get some other folks coming and
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