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Power Hardware

Trash-To-Gas Power Plant Gets Greenlight 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the smell-of-power dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Beginning in a little more than a week, Green Power, Inc. of Pasco, Washington will be commencing the building of municipal-solid-waste-to-fuel plants for clients around the world, with $2 billion in contracts; now that an EPA ruling has exonerated GPI from an unnecessary shut-down order by the Washington Ecology Department last year. This fuel would be of higher quality and cheaper than fuel derived from crude oil — and it comes from local feedstock, while turning waste into energy. Now your laptop can turn into a quart of diesel fuel to power your trip to the dump. And the ocean gyres of trash the size of Texas can power Texas. This is an update on a Slashdot story from nine months ago.
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Trash-To-Gas Power Plant Gets Greenlight

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  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @03:51PM (#34300272) Journal

    During early winter our yard has an almost 6-inch layer of leaves. If a service would scoop them up and take them away for free, they could use them for fuel. It would benefit 3 parties: us (leaf removal), the leaf processing company, and The Planet.

  • Re:Gyres (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icannotthinkofaname (1480543) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:09PM (#34300364) Journal

    Stupid Question: Could the trash from the ocean gyres be used to power the operations to remove trash from the ocean gyres?

  • by icegreentea (974342) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#34300610)
    Many municipalities run special garden composting services. You rake/pick up your garden waste/trimmings/whatever, put it in this giant paper bag, and they come by every few weeks and pick it up and turn it to compost. Which you can then buy back. And before you go yelling about them taking your stuff and selling it back to you, you -could- just compost it yourself. But you won't cause it's more work than you would like and smells bad. Which is precisely why they have to charge you for it.
  • by steveha (103154) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @06:44PM (#34301280) Homepage

    From TFA:

    In August of 2009, GPI was shut down by Washington state's Ecology Department who said GPI had "not provided adequate compliance with the environmental air quality regulations." This was cleared on September 8, 2010 by an EPA ruling that support's GPI's claim and reverses Washington state's Ecology Department's claim that placed the GPI process in the class of incinerators, which it is not.

    So the government of my state caused major problems for GPI, and the federal government had to overrule the state. That's just great.

    According to TFA, GPI's plant operates using "a proprietary catalytic pressure-less depolymerization process (CDP)" yet the state Department of Ecology (DoE) insisted on regulating the plant as if it were an incinerator plant, which it clearly isn't.

    We have a liberal Democrat for a governor, the Democrats have a complete lock on the state legislature, and plenty of liberal voters. Our governor claims to be in favor of the environment, in favor of business that helps the state, in favor of jobs, etc. Where was she when the state DoE was causing these problems?

    I really wonder at the politics behind this. If this is random bureaucrats just being pointlessly bureaucratic, why didn't any other part of government get involved and help resolve this? Where were the state senators and representatives from the Pasco area? Did the governor just never hear of this, and if so, how is that possible?

    If I were governor and something like this happened, I would very publicly intervene. There's no political downside! The governor has more power than bureaucrats at the DoE, and the voters would love to hear that a green energy project was helped out. So why didn't that happen?

    P.S. This of course reminds me of the other thermal depolymerization [wikipedia.org] plant, the plant in Carthage, Missouri [discovermagazine.com] that processed turkey offal into energy and fuel. That plant was shut down several times, over allegations of a bad smell; the bad smell was reported at least once on a day that the plant wasn't operating. Eventually they installed upgraded scrubbers on their exhaust stacks and resumed operation. The company, Changing World Technologies [wikipedia.org] went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy [gigaom.com] and I guess the TDP plant was shut down. That seems crazy to me; the price of crude oil is high, so they should be able to run their plant at a profit. I guess they are just in too much trouble financially to even run the plant right now?

    I hope this "CDP" plant in Pasco works out better than the Changing Worlds one did.

    steveha

  • by greggle (148323) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @09:04PM (#34302026)

    It is not as cut-and-dried as TFA (I prefer to call it press-release journalism) claims.

    From the Tri-City Herald: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/11/21/1260850/pasco-biomass-company-plans-to.html [tri-cityherald.com]

    There are plenty of so-called businessmen out there with grandiose plans of converting biomass to energy without any pollution. Unfortunately, this sounds like one of them.

  • by steveha (103154) on Sunday November 21, 2010 @11:23PM (#34302742) Homepage

    There are plenty of so-called businessmen out there with grandiose plans of converting biomass to energy without any pollution. Unfortunately, this sounds like one of them.

    If you read the related links, you will see that GPI really can produce a quality product; according to this page [peswiki.com] you can take the output of their test plant and pour it into the tank of a diesel truck and it will just work. And if you read the claims, it seems it doesn't pollute the air while doing it (impurities from the input stream come out the far end as some sort of solid). Some combustible gas is produced as a by-product of the reaction (methane, I guess) and they plan to burn that to provide power to operate the plant, making it self-fueling. (The same thing is true of the Changing Worlds plant that converts turkey offal to oil.) In short, if these web pages are true, GPI is not making "grandiose claims" that aren't true.

    Also, GPI seems to have some real problems paying bills on time. That has nothing to do with the technology. (And the Washington state DoE shutting them down didn't exactly help GPI to pay their bills on time.)

    It seems the DoE shut them down because the DoE believes that GPI should have filed some paperwork related to burning trash. GPI went to the federal EPA and got a ruling [pesn.com] that their process does not fall into the category of burning trash, and thus the DoE was wrong to require trash-burning paperwork.

    I'm wondering if GPI could have avoided the problems by talking to the DoE more up front. One of the articles quoted a DoE representative as saying that the DoE had no idea what might come out of this plant, since nobody from GPI had filed any paperwork. But GPI filed paperwork with the EPA... are we to believe they withheld details of their process from the Washington state government but were willing to disclose the details to the EPA? If so, why?

    I can't sleuth out the truth by reading all the newspaper articles on the web, so I don't know for sure what exactly is going on. I just hope that they get this thing going... efficiently turning waste into usable fuel is a win every way you look at it.

    They claim they can produce diesel at a cost of less than $0.80 per gallon; at gas stations near me, diesel costs over four times that much, so they ought to be able to sell all the diesel they can make at a tidy profit. Then maybe they can pay back all the people to whom they owe money.

    steveha

  • Got one already (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dismentor (592590) on Monday November 22, 2010 @08:50AM (#34305166)
    I'm from the Isle of Man; we already have one of these.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.

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