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Power Earth

A Waste Gasification Plant In a Truck 148

Posted by kdawson
from the back-it-up dept.
waderoush writes "There are plenty of waste-to-energy plants around the US, but most of them simply burn the waste, dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Gasification technology, by contrast, converts nearly all of the waste into gases like hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be used to run generators and furnaces. The problem is that most gasification facilities are factory-sized. Now a startup outside Boston has built a combination shredder-dryer-pelletizer-gasifier that fits into 30-by-8-by-8-foot shipping container. The so-called 'Green Energy Machine' can be backed up to a loading dock by truck, processing 3 tons of solid waste per day and putting out enough synthetic gas to run a 120-kilowatt generator or a 240-kilowatt-equivalent furnace. The makers say the machine can eliminate 540 tons of carbon emissions per year, in large part by reducing the amount of waste that goes to methane-generating landfills."
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A Waste Gasification Plant In a Truck

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  • Apples (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @03:34AM (#26526009)

    IGasify. Portable usb gasification plant.

    Power your IPod with your own excrements! As only pop stars can do right now.

    • Re:Apples (Score:4, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:05AM (#26526151)

      That's spelled poop stars now. And I'm damn glad smellovision wasn't invented yet.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by imdx80 (842737)
        "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.
      • Actually, Smell-O-Vision exists already, and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery. The process injected 30 different smells into a movie theater's seats when triggered by the film's soundtrack.

        And director John Waters released a movie in 1981 called Polyester, with "Odorama", whereby viewers could smell what they saw on screen through scratch and sniff cards.

        I saw/smelled it, and it was GROSS!

        Be very glad that technology is still quite immature.

        • by jabithew (1340853)

          It was also done as part of Children in Need one year here. All of the scratch and sniff slots smelt of mothballs.

      • the smell-o-scope.
    • IGasify. Portable usb gasification plant.

      Don't forget the new IGasify Nano. Now ENIAC-sized!

    • by b4upoo (166390)

      How about getting a bunch of these things and backing them up to the local landfill? We have large ones scheduled to go on line at our local landfills but it might be a lot faster to simply get a bunch of small ones. Supposedly our entire garbage mountain can be used to make electricity.

      • by Forge (2456)
        RTFA. Right now it takes them 4 months to build one. Until they get a proper assembly line going, It will be quicker to build an "old fashioned" landfill sized plant than to build an array of these miniatures.

        Also at $850,000 for a highly complex peace of equipment, I wonder what they maintenance charge will be? What's the lifespan of the major components? Did that 3 years at full capacity to pay for itself estimate take those costs into account?
    • as Mr. Fusion has already received a patent. In conjunction with a flux capacitor, when seen a clear demonstration that it is capable of producing gigawatts of electricity from our trash--in particular, simply banana peels and several cc's of light beer. But I'm sure Apple will take credit as having invented it.
  • Simply put vacuum devices under the tables at Taco Bell and Del Taco. You'll get all the burnable gas you'll ever need!
  • I have that beat: (Score:4, Informative)

    by pecosdave (536896) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @03:35AM (#26526015) Homepage Journal

    You obviously never went on a high school trip with teenagers in a van eating pumpkin seeds. That was the highest efficiency matter to gas conversion I've ever seen.

  • by zymano (581466)

    A reformer that removes all the carbon before it's burned would have made the tech a homerun.

    Just =5 on a 10 point scale.

    reformers are being researched for fuel cells because they can convert gasoline to hydrogen and remove that carbon.

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @03:40AM (#26526037)
    When I lived in Iowa briefly I was amazed at some of the cool ideas people have come up with to use waste to create energy. As I'm sure many of you know, Iowa is big farm country, lots of cattle. So somebody devised a way to burn cow feces and use it to create power. Some small towns are using this as a means to cut back on buying energy, while at the same time finding a use for stuff that would otherwise just help contaminate the drinking water. Our energy problems are big, but the key to getting stuff done is creativity.
    • by ani23 (899493) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:12AM (#26526173)
      rural folks in india have been doing that since forever. http://www.vatanappally.com/images/yp_cow.jpg [vatanappally.com]
    • by umghhh (965931) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @05:15AM (#26526445)

      I suppose there is no one single way of dealing with shortage of fossil fuels so we will need many methods if one of them deals with big part of our garbage that is only good.
      Plants that process manure are maybe not a common thing but their use is getting more and more popular. The advantage is there also that the processed thing can be used as fertilizer and it does not stink as terrible as the original thing. Why the method is not more popular I do not know. Seems to be no brainer.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        Why the method is not more popular I do not know. Seems to be no brainer.

        I can think of two reasons. The first is that manure digesters, like all energy infrastructure, requires a lot of money up front. Farms are strapped for capital as it is with buying seed, fertilizer, and equipment, so it's tough to come up with the necessary money, even if it pays for itself in X number of years. That doesn't explain why it isn't done on a municipal level, but at that scale the logistics of collecting the waste an

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sumdumass (711423)

      I don't know about Burning them for power but we used to take dried cow chips and pack them with us on camping trips. You could light them with fatwood (sawdust and wood splinters mixed with wax or oil and presses into sticks with wicks on one end for lighting like a match) and they would stay lit long enough to dry out wet wood. It doesn't smell like crap at this stage and if you can't find wood, several pieces of this would give you a fire big enough to cook on. Also, it was relatively light so it made pa

  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @03:49AM (#26526093) Homepage

    This is a nice idea. In fact I think all solutions which work by localizing energy distribution is the way to go. Minimizing needless transportation of energy and waste is a huge improvement over the current situation.

    I don't think there will ever be a single "silver bullet" tech to solve our energy and environment issues. The solution is lots and lots of small local (even house-level) improvements.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The solution is lots and lots of small local (even house-level) improvements.

      Mostly true. Need to keep in mind all costs and benefits however. There's a reason why centralized, large scale factories etc. developed.

      Economies of scale at a central plant, including centralized transport and centralized construction, may outweigh the benefit of distributing the plant and reducing the costs of product transport. It depends on many different factors. e.g. The A380 is one of the most efficient passenger aircraft

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:43AM (#26527167)
        I think women are the problem. I would be happy to have an energy efficient house made of concrete that is built like a bunker and partially subterranean. My wife however insists on having a pretty house with lots of windows facing all the wrong directions.
        • by icebrain (944107) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @10:08AM (#26528143)

          A concrete subterranean bunker would be an awesome house! I've been dreaming about one of them for years. They have several advantages over traditional wood-frame-and-siding-with -lots-of-windows houses:

          -Better insulation, so less energy leakage and lower electric bills

          -Better disaster resistance (though flooding might be a concern). Your house won't get blown away in a hurricane or tornado, and you don't have to worry about the roof collapsing under heavy snow.

          -Impervious to termites

          -More resistant to burglars and vandals, and easier to defend against home invasions

          -Possibly more fire survivability (structurally, at least). Assuming you get out, you might lose some possessions, but the structure will not contribute to the fire and will still be there after it's over. Done right, you could even seal it and let the fire suffocate itself, assuming that doesn't pose a problem to evacuation.

          Unfortunately, my wife wants a traditional house. Something about appearance being more important than functionality...

          • by Chyeld (713439)

            True men (which I make no claim of being) build their man cave first, then let the woman build thier poofy "doll house" on top.

          • by Carnivore (103106)

            Check out ICF (insulating concrete forms) construction. You can have a house that's made out of poured concrete that looks pretty much like a "normal" house. Certain systems go up to R50 insulation value in the walls.

    • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @07:19AM (#26527039) Homepage
      How do you know that the gains from distributing your capabilities will offset the increased inefficiencies of larger numbers of smaller operations, not to mention the set-up costs? Economies of scale isn't just a fancy word....
  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:01AM (#26526135)

    Not sure about the emission standards of Massachusetts, but I know that California was a stickler for oxides of nitrogen emissions.

    It sounds like the temperatures involved here are high enough to form oxides of nitrogen (the cylinder of an automobile can be) and these are precisely the gases that are responsible for "Acid Rain".

    Trading one problem for another?

    • I noticed the lack of discussion about state and federal EPA standards, too. Columbus, OH shut down its trash burning power plant a few years ago due to dioxide emissions that would have prohibitively costly to remove.
    • I work for an engineering firm in California that does air permitting.

      Nitrous oxides are primarily a concern as a smog/ozone precursor. Ground level NOx is a health concern because it will create an acid, as the parent mentioned.

      CO and NOx are basicly dueling pollutants any time you have a combustion process. High temperatures lead to NOx, low temperatures lead to CO. In California, most reguins are in attainment for CO, but many are not in attainment for NOx. Permitting most combustion sources will

  • Carbon Monoxide? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:03AM (#26526145) Homepage Journal

    CO to me usually means toxic and dangerous, not fuel source. I'm willing to believe it could be used to produce power, but I'd want to be quite sure it was well contained. It doesn't take much concentration of that stuff to kill a person, and the toxicity means you often lose consciousness before you know you're suffocating (and end up on the floor, where the air quality will be worst).

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by McWilde (643703)
      Just Posting to undo offtopic mod. Stupid onchange event handling.
    • by berzerke (319205) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @05:02AM (#26526391) Homepage

      CO burns to CO2 with enough O2. It can be used as fuel, albeit a dangerous one. However, there are ways to deal with that. Gasoline, for instance, isn't a health drink, but we still use it everyday.

    • Re:Carbon Monoxide? (Score:5, Informative)

      by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @05:27AM (#26526497)

      CO to me usually means toxic and dangerous, not fuel source.

      Then you will be pleased to discover that carbon monoxide is not only an ubiquitous industrial chemical used for more things than you are likely to imagine, but that it has been used as automotive fuel in times past, a bit like how compressed natural gas is used in some vehicles today. Yes it is toxic, but then so are most industrial chemicals and commonly used gases. This is actually pretty retro fuel technology, used when petroleum distillates were in short supply since you can produce it from damn near any organic matter (wood waste was a popular source). It says something about educational systems that you do not know that carbon monoxide has a long history as a fuel, since that was its primary application for a long time, usually by converting a carbon rich source into "water gas", a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. We have long since replaced water gas with natural gas and short-chain hydrocarbon gases from mined sources, which is far more cost effective in bulk.

      I am not really directing this at you, but we need to get past the "gosh, it might be toxic!" over-reaction to some really basic chemistry. We have used "water gas" and carbon monoxide systems for a very long time as chemistry goes, and long before anyone really properly characterized its asphyxiating properties. If they could use it in the 19th century without killing everybody, then we can certainly use it in the 21st century without killing everybody. There is more truly nasty chemistry waiting to happen in your average household than any normal person likely imagines, and yet we somehow survive as a society.

      Chemical toxicity is becoming like "nuclear" and "radioactive", bogeymen perceived as ineffable evils that will kill us all. It betrays a deep disconnect with the reality of the situation that, if allowed to drive political decisions, really will kill us all even if indirectly in a carefully designed hypo-allergenic padded cell. Fortunately, biology evolved in environments filled with radioactive, toxic crap, and is pretty good at mitigating the damage except in the most extreme cases that only a human could engineer. Yes, carbon monoxide is toxic, but it is also easily managed with some fairly primitive engineering.

      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @06:43AM (#26526847) Homepage Journal
        It's not that long ago that the UK changed from the CO / H mixture (it was called "town gas") to natural gas.
      • Co-generation, or taking the products of one process and using the heat products or byproducts to power another has been around for generations. The distributed (geographically) nature of the co-generation process and the inability to handily drop the generated power into a grid is what kills that process.

        In terms of toxicity, the groundwater is already contaminated in many areas with PERC (which could have been broken down through cheap catalysts and then 'burned') because we don't handle toxic chemical 'l

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        CO/H mixtures are also known as Syngas [wikipedia.org].

        I agree completely. Everything is turning into a DHMO scare [dhmo.org]. If you want to scare the heck out of someone, have then read the MSDS of some of the chemicals you can buy by the gallon at you local DIY store. Methyl Ethyl Ketone [jtbaker.com], xylene [jtbaker.com], etc. People blithely ignore the safety data for these because they think if it's at a DIY store it must be somehow 'safe'.

      • by kabocox (199019)

        I am not really directing this at you, but we need to get past the "gosh, it might be toxic!" over-reaction to some really basic chemistry. We have used "water gas" and carbon monoxide systems for a very long time as chemistry goes, and long before anyone really properly characterized its asphyxiating properties. If they could use it in the 19th century without killing everybody, then we can certainly use it in the 21st century without killing everybody. There is more truly nasty chemistry waiting to happen

        • My landlord was cleaning house once for a dinner party they were having, and running short of one type of cleaner he added another (Clorox) to the bucket. We ran around the house opening all the windows (Germany in February is rather cold). Don't think "everyone knows". What "everyone knows" will get someone killed.

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        Thank you for your informative response. I'd heard of "water gas" but didn't recall the chemical mixture involved - chemistry is fun but far from my strongest subject, and I've not studied it in some time.

        I both agree and disagree with your "gosh, it might be toxic!" paragraph. True, we do need to understand that things which might be dangerous can be safely contained - I'm a big proponent of fission power, for example - and I in no way meant to imply that I thought these things *would* be dangerous. It was

    • by MrNaz (730548) * on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @05:58AM (#26526649) Homepage

      Err, it's pretty obvious that they'd build some kind of safety mechanism. If you're going to point out dangers of various power sources and assume there are no safety measures being taken, here's a bit of airy scary information for you:

      * Nuclear fuel, uranium, is radioactive and will cause cancer or direct radiation poisoning.
      * Coal is full of mercury, and eating it will cause people to call you a mad hatter.
      * Oil is bad because you can drown in it.
      * Solar power is bad because the sun can give you sunburn.
      * Wind power is really nasty because all those spinning blades can chop you up into teeny tiny pieces.

      • You forgot water power! Have you seen the effects of overexposure to that wet stuff? It's horrible!
      • by kabocox (199019)

        * Nuclear fuel, uranium, is radioactive and will cause cancer or direct radiation poisoning.
        * Coal is full of mercury, and eating it will cause people to call you a mad hatter.
        * Oil is bad because you can drown in it.
        * Solar power is bad because the sun can give you sunburn.
        * Wind power is really nasty because all those spinning blades can chop you up into teeny tiny pieces.

        You forgot a few.
        Burning wood is bad for you. It produces toxic smoke.
        Burning animal wastes for fuel is bad for the same as above reaso

      • Let's not forget - as long as we're discussing dangerous chemicals - the far-reaching effects of dihydrogen monoxide.

        It can also cause asphyxiation, drowning and other nasty effects.

        This is interesting - we see a potential to remove ourselves of one issue and hold up the red flags before it is even fully discussed.
      • by cbhacking (979169)

        You misunderstood. I'm not saying that I don't think it could be safely contained, or that I'm unaware of the dangers of other fuel sources (although radiation aside - and I do in fact support nuclear reactor use - most fuels used in homes or businesses won't kill you just from being in the same room as a leak - will it have an added odor like natural gas does so you can smell it before the concentration becomes lethal?)

        I was merely surprised that something which, until now, has been the cause of people ins

    • by mpe (36238)
      CO to me usually means toxic and dangerous, not fuel source.

      It is a fuel source and was a major part of "town gas/coal gas" which was the usual form of piped gas prior to "natural gas". Which is where they idea of people commiting suicide using gas comes from...
      Also used in the Second World war were reactors which partially burned wood to fuel internal combustion engines. Often for civilian use since the German military had priority access to regular fuel.
  • by TimSSG (1068536) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:14AM (#26526181)
    From Article

    The pellets are dropped into the aforementioned downdraft gasifier, which breaks them down under high heat into a mix of methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Finally, this "syngas" is sucked into a generator or microturbine to make electricity, or piped to a furnace to make heat.

    The summary has the idea that carbon monoxide is NOT an green house gas. While, this might be true the gas is then burned which should result in carbon dioxide. Tim S

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      You could sequester the CO instead by using to gas bunnies, weighting the bunny corpses down with compacted garbage and chucking them into the ocean somewhere where it is really deep.

      Oh you said a green solution. Sorry, try the next cubicle along. Chap with the pony tail will help you.

  • ... siphon out and cart off all the, ummm, residue that's left after the gasification. Can you say "shitty job"?

  • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:42AM (#26526287)

    Have you any idea how many billions of dollers there are to be made exploiting old landfill sites? Either by mining or collecting that methane for sale.

    Most people who don't like them seem to think they are just holes in the ground that get filled up with crap and left to pollute. I live less than five miles from one, have done for many years, and not once has there been any smell or environmental damage. That area has some of the best hedgerows in the county, and as they cover over finished portions, the local wildlife is left alone to repopulate.

    In contrast, constant development closer to me has destroyed a marsh, displacing a population of kingfishers (among other species, but they were the most prominant to my mind) and disrupting local river systes. They even redirected one river entirely, and now it floods every few years.

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      There is a land fill not far from me that ended up polluting the local water table and made a crap load of people sick before it was discovered. The company that owned the landfill ended up putting water storage tanks in place of the wells and trucked in treated watter until it could plumb the entire country side and build a water treatment plant that those effected residents are forced to use.

      Also, sometime around the 70's, the land fills started having to cover the garbage as it went in. They couldn't hav

    • by Verdatum (1257828)
      Sheesh, thank you for posting this so I didn't have to. Ohhh nooo! Methane-producing landfills! Hey wait, they're a Good Thing.
  • Needs "Marty!" tag (Score:2, Informative)

    by Veggiesama (1203068)

    But can it power a flux capacitor?

  • There are plenty of waste-to-energy plants around the US, but most of them simply burn the waste, dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Gasification technology, by contrast, converts nearly all of the waste into gases like hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be used to run generators and furnaces.

    So what exactly happens to the carbon monoxide "used to run generators and furnaces"? Oh, it's burned and so "dump[s] carbon dioxide into the atmosphere".

    Where's the contrast again?

    • The end product is the same, the contrast is presumably that you get some use out of it first. That means you could save using some other fuel.
      • The original article says

        There are plenty of waste-to-energy plants around the US, but most of them simply burn the waste,

        "waste-to-energy" sounds like they're saving some other fuel doesn't it?

        • "waste-to-energy" sounds like they're saving some other fuel doesn't it?

          But "simply burn the waste" implies the opposite - and that's in the same sentence. The whole article is a load of shite.

    • by borizz (1023175)
      Seriously? You have to ask this?

      Yes, the same CO2 will still enter the atmosphere. But now it has heated some homes. Which in turn do not need to burn natural gas or heating oil for their heat, so that CO2 production is saved.
      • Seriously, did you read the article? They're contrasting existing waste to energy plants (which burn the crap, and use the heat, either for heating, or electricity generation, or both) with gasification, followed by burning the gas for heating, electricity generation, or both.

        Where's the big win?

        • by hAckz0r (989977)

          Where's the big win?

          The big win is there are fewer toxic by products when using a plasma furnace. By use of the plasma ultra high temperatures (e.g. 30,000 deg F) everything ionizes and breaks down to their atomic levels and then recombine as much smaller and less toxic molecules. If you wanted to get rid of the US's stockpiles of chemical weapons this is the way to do it. Too bad it doesn't work for radioactive wastes as well.

          http://gas2.org/2008/02/03/more-on-plasma-gasification-technology/ [gas2.org]

        • by Locklin (1074657)

          There isn't one on the surface. I suppose burning-garbage > electricity > electric heat may be a less efficient way to heat a house than gasification > gas transport > gas furnace, but that all depends on how good their process is.

          • Yeah, but the smart way to burn garbage is in combined heat and power (CHP) plants (that's what we do here in Paris),

            garbage -> heat -> electricity + low-grade heat. Low-grade heat used to heat homes & offices, electricity used for lighting and so on.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @05:20AM (#26526477)
    For reference, 1 kw = 3/4 hp, so this thing could almost power your car. . .
  • by El Puerco Loco (31491) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @08:21AM (#26527333)

    did this back in the '40s. you don't want to be like hitler, do you? burn fossil fuels like every other red-blooded american, dammit!

  • of the batmobile and the weinermobile, fartmobile promises far fewer smiles on the faces of children and far less dynamic action. instead, kids can marvel at its ability to generate heat in the winter, electricity in the summer, and a putrid stench all year round no matter where its parked.
  • Does it generate enough energy to power itself and yield a surplus? Because if it's using power from the site where it operates, then it's still increasing its 'carbon footprint'.
    • by Bob-taro (996889)

      Does it generate enough energy to power itself and yield a surplus?

      TFA says once it has been running for about 2 hours, it uses 7% of the generated fuel to power itself. It also talks about selling surplus power back to the utility.

  • What is the carbon footprint for the manufacture of this item? How long does it have to be run before the amount of carbon that went into its manufacture is balanced by the amount of carbon not being released into the atmosphere?

  • The makers say the machine can eliminate 540 tons of carbon emissions per year, in large part by reducing the amount of waste that goes to methane-generating landfills.

    So instead of burying carbon, it's being shifted into a fuel that will be burned (releasing it into the air)?

  • I couldn't help but think of Landfills being an excellent customer base. The problem of Landfills filling up is serious around large metropolitan areas. I don't know how much tonnage of gases are generated at a Landfill, but if one of these contraptions generates 90% of energy as excess, then its time to start figuring out how to wire them up to the power grid.

    As a side note, I looked at their web site. Company is still private, no stock ticker symbol. And their running a LAMP on Ubuntu, cool.

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