Unstash that Trash: Material(s) progress in making fuels, chemicals from Municipal solid waste

April 25, 2017 |

News this week arrived from Canada that Enerkem has received the lowest carbon intensity value ever issued by the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines for its ethanol product under the Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation.

The confirmed carbon intensity is a shocker. Where gasoline check in at the testing center at 88 grams of CO2-equivalent per megajoule of energy, Enerkem fuel clocks in at 55 below zero.

How possible? Enerkem’s product removes carbon emissions from the atmosphere, rather than adding to them. So, all you really need to do is blend three gallons of Enerkem fuel with two gallons of conventional gasoline, and you’ve solved the transportation climate change problem.

Standing between now and that result are three monstrous challenges:

1. Finding enough feedstock.
2. Affording the fuel.
3. Developing enough cars that could tolerate fuels at those blends.
3. Building enough capacity.

For now, it’s enough that the British Columbia Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements Regulation opens up the door for Enerkem to sell its advanced ethanol in the province, in addition to the local Alberta market where its world’s first full-scale facility in operation is located.

Enerkem gets lowest ever carbon intensity value from BC for 2G ethanol

What else is up at Planet Enerkem?

Validation efforts, for one.

We reported earlier this month that the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility in Edmonton is fully operational in accordance with very rigorous production criteria. Enerkem CEO Vincent Chornet commented that “this third-party validation comes in at the right time as we are expanding our footprint in North America and Europe. Our disruptive solution sets a new standard in waste management, biofuels and chemicals, thus accelerating the transition toward a circular economy where waste becomes a resource to make everyday products.” http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2017/04/12/enerkem-hits-all-operational-milestones-at-edmonton-plant/

As Chornet advised, the big story is expansion. There are many projects under consideration around the world. The biggies are:

1. A cellulosic ethanol project in Varennes, Quebec called Vanerco — in partnership with Greenfield. STDC Canada could be investing up to $40M in it. More on that

2. We reported last month that Enerkem is moving forward with the $200 million MSW-to-ethanol plant first announced last May with plans to site it outside St. Paul in Dakota County. Together with local recycling company SKB Environmental, a formal presentation was made in February to the local city council but the companies have yet to submit a proposal for permitting.
If all goes according to plan, the facility could be online as soon as 2020 using much of the county’s 400,000 tons of MSW per year.

3. We reported last October that a partnership comprised of AkzoNobel, Van Gansewinkel, Air Liquide, AVR and Enerkem is looking to build its waste-to-chemicals plant in Rotterdam in collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam, the City of Rotterdam, the province of South Holland and InnovationQuarter.  The new chemical plant will use Enerkem’s innovative technology to convert residual waste into methanol, a raw material used in the chemical industry. The methanol will then be converted into chemicals such as acetic acid (e.g., for fibers and adhesives), thickening agents and dimethyl ether (clean propellant gases).

4. Well, there’s a JV to build a project in China, We reported on it back in October 2014. Enerkem at that time inked a JV with Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute. Not much heard on that since.

Fulcrum’s progress

The primary competitor for MSW feedstock is Fulcrum Bioenergy, which has not yet started construction on its first commercial project in Nevada, but has assembled an awesome set of investors including United Airlines, Cathay Pacific and BP — not to mention Waste Management, which also invested in Enerkem.

In November 2016, we reported the creation of a strategic partnership between its BP Ventures and Air BP businesses with Fulcrum BioEnergy, a pioneer in the development and production of low-carbon jet fuel, in which BP will invest $30 million. As an equity investor, BP has secured a 10 year offtake agreement with Fulcrum for 50 million US gallons per year, from their plants under development across North America. In addition, as a preferred supply chain partner, Air BP will distribute and supply biojet into aircraft at key hubs across North America.

Overall, we reported last September that Fulcrum is planning to develop eight of its MSW-to-biofuel facilities by 2022, including its first 11 million gallon facility that is under development near Reno, Nevada that will be online during the second half of 2018. Those new facilities, five of which will be developed by United Airlines as part of their investment deal sealed in June 2015, will be between three and six times the size of the Reno facility.

Fiberight’s MSW project

We reported in March that a superior court judge has ruled against Fiberight’s competitors who sought to have the company’s environmental permits for a planned MSW-to-biofuel plant revoked, instead affirming the permits and opening the path for the company to move forward with its proposed project. The committee that manages the MSW for more than 100 communities in the state chose to partner with Fiberight on waste manage from April 2018 when its contract expires with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corp., the same entity that brought suit against the company.

Sierra’s project

We reported in March that Sierra Energy has teamed with the Army to trial its FastOx Gasifier technology that turns MSW into hydrogen for use in vehicles, carbon monoxide for electricity production and liquid metal as well as slag for reuse in other industries. The demo is being built at the Army’s Fort Hunter Liggit following initial testing at the Army’s Renewable Energy Testing Center at McClellan Park. The gasifier burns at 4,000 degrees F, hotter than the inside of a volcano, allowing it to process anything that is put in it.

Cielo’s project

In January we reported that Cielo Waste Solutions planned to invest C$7 million to upgrade the mothballed Western Biodiesel facility it recently bought for C$2.3 million in Alberta to its MSW-to-renewable diesel technology by the end of the year. The facility will process MSW every hour to produce renewable diesel. The 13-year-old company has invested C$16 million in getting ready for this first commercial facility.

Wilson Bio-Chemical’s project

In September 2016, we reported that Wilson Bio-Chemical opened its Micro Autoclave Fiber Production Plant for turning MSW into biomass fiber that can be converted into a range of products, such as butanol, hydrogen, acetone and ethanol. The facility has been developed with the help of the University of York’s subsidiary, the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), and is based at the BDC’s site just outside York. Wilson Bio-Chemical has developed and installed a specialized, rotating autoclave which can treat the biological portion of MSW with steam and high pressure and convert it into a sterile fiber.

The new production plant is able to process 150,000 tonnes of waste per year, once it is at full commercial scale. Wilson Bio-Chemical is working with BDC and the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York on various projects to test the fermentation process and the feasibility for use in bio-energy.

Cornerstone Resources’ new thermal decomposition technology

In August 2016 we highlighted a new technology from Cornerstone Resources, Cornerstone Resources – called BurCell system, it is a disruptive vacuum aided thermal decomposition process which converts pre-sorted MSW and other feedstocks into a consistent, homogenous process engineered cellulosic product. It is uniquely differentiated from existing technologies competing to provide MSW recycling, landfill reduction, and organic feedstock solutions for energy and bioproducts conversion processes. Cornerstone CEO Ron Barmore gave this overview presentation on BurCell at ABLC Feedstocks 2016.

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