Waste Management: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

April 6, 2014 |

Waste Management is the largest environmental solutions provider in North America, serving more than 20 million customers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. WM is committed to developing new waste solutions that can help communities and organizations achieve their green goals, including zero waste.

With the largest network of recycling facilities, transfer stations and landfills in the industry, our entire business can adapt to meet the needs of every distinct customer group. Waste Management is also a renewable energy provider, producing more than twice the amount of renewable electricity than the entire US solar industry. By the end of 2012, WM operated over 138 beneficial-use landfill-gas projects, producing enough energy to power nearly 500,000 homes.

As North America’s largest residential recycler, WM expects to manage more than 20 million tons every year by 2020, up from the more than 12 million tons handled in 2012. Part of that will come from expanding on proven technology to make recycling easier for consumers. Another part will be investing in future technologies, like converting organic waste from the materials stream to make high-end compost for local growers.

Model:

Feedstock provider and strategic investor

The Situation:

Organic Growth Group is WM’s Corporate Venturing Group. Formed in 2005 to assist in the development of a new growth platforms and extract more value out of the material WM handles.

The company has invested in Enerkem, Fulcrum. Genomatica, Harvest Power, Agilyx, InEnTec, Agnion and Renmatix.

In January, the company said that it is looking to invest in commercial stage technologies rather than startups as it looks to de-risk its portfolio. The company has pulled out of some of 25 total investments it has made since 2007 in the past 12-18 months.

The company said in 2012 it had invested between $300 million and $400 million in these waste technology ventures, including biofuels.

Past Milestones:

In March 2014, Waste Management, Ventech Engineers International NRG Energy, and Velocys announced the formation of a joint venture to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biogas and natural gas using smaller-scale gas-to-liquids technology. As part of Waste Management’s commitment to sustainability, the company continually explores new ways to extract value from the biogas managed at its landfills. Under this program, Waste Management has pioneered the use of smaller-scale GTL utilizing landfill gas, including building and operating a demonstration unit at East Oak landfill in Oklahoma. The demonstration unit has accumulated more than 10,000 hours of successful operation.

“From developing gas recovery and cleanup techniques, to registering GTL diesel as a fuel for on-highway use, Waste Management has been a leader in this area. We are pleased to take this opportunity forward with a very strong team. Velocys’ leading smaller-scale GTL technology, Ventech’s engineering capabilities, and NRG’s clean energy development expertise will complement Waste Management’s strengths in the joint venture,” said Joe Vaillancourt, vice president, corporate venturing at Waste Management.

In October 2013, Waste Management announced it is building a facility that will create pipeline-ready natural gas from its Milam Landfill in Fairmont City, Ill.At a ceremony at the landfill, state, county and local officials joined the company to celebrate the groundbreaking.

The processed renewable natural gas will be injected into the pipelines of Ameren Illinois for withdrawal at other locations, including some Waste Management facilities. Once there, it will be used to fuel truck fleets and other equipment that run on compressed natural gas, or CNG. Waste Management is calling the plant the Renewable Natural Gas Facility and expects it to begin delivering gas to the pipelines in late summer 2014.

In August 2012, Waste Management and Renmatix announced they have entered into a joint development agreement  to explore the feasibility of converting post-consumer waste into affordable, sufficient-quality sugars for manufacturing biobased materials. In addition, WM has joined global chemical giant BASF and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Renmatix’s Series C raise, now totaling $75M. The strategic investment and alliance aims to expand the feedstock flexibility of Renmatix’s proprietary Plantrose process beyond rural biomass to include materials derived from cost-effective and readily available urban waste material such as that managed by Waste Management. Renmatix’s Plantrose process uses “supercritical” water—a state in which water acts as a solvent—to economically and efficiently deconstruct a wide range of non-food plant material in a continuous reaction down to the base sugars that enable a high-volume, low-volatility renewable material.

In November 2011, the company announced that it has closed an equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy.  In connection with this investment, WM agreed to a secured loan facility that provides for WM’s funding of up to $70 million for Fulcrum’s proposed Sierra BioFuels plant upon the satisfaction of certain conditions. The parties also entered into a master project development agreement to collaborate on the joint development of Fulcrum projects in various locations throughout the United States using municipal solid waste supplied by subsidiaries of Waste Management under long-term feedstock agreements.

In April 2011, Waste Management and Total announced that they joined the $22 million Series B investment round in Agilyx, led by Kleiner Perkins and including previous investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures and Reference Capital. The Portland-based company, once known as Plas2Fuel, is developing a novel, scalable technology that converts difficult-to-recycle waste plastics into synthetic sweet crude oil. Last year, it received TechAmerica’s 2010 Cool Product of the Year Award. It’s other milestone – opening its 10 ton per day demonstration facility

In May 2011, Waste Management announced a strategic investment in Agnion Energy, to advance Agnion’s small-scale allothermal gasification technology.  Waste Management joins other investors in Agnion including, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Munich Venture Partners and Wellington Partners. Agnion’s innovative allothermal gasification technology converts solid biomass feedstock into a high hydrogen and carbon monoxide-rich synthetic gas (syngas) with exceptionally high heating value.  Agnion’s unique and simple Heatpipe-Reformer design provides a flexible, small-scale on-site gasification technology solution for relatively low capital cost.

Future Milestones:

Commercial scale technology deployments of its portfolio technologies.

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