The largest solid waste handler in the U.S., Waste Management, Inc., is partnering with Valero Energy to invest in a technology that can turn biomass into high-octane gasoline.
The technology is called MixAlco™ and was developed by Terrabon. MixAlco uses solid waste from landfills as well as sewage to ferment it into organic salts, which are then refined into renewable gasoline, jet fuel or diesel. The refining process will take place at Valero facilities, and Waste Management will be involved in securing organic waste to produce the salts.
“We see waste as a resource to be recovered in a way that protects and enhances the environment,” said Carl Rush, vice president of Organic Growth at Waste Management.
“This investment in Terrabon, together with Waste Management’s other renewable energy initiatives, will help move Waste Management toward meeting two of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste.”
The resulting gasoline can be mixed with other fuels as it provides fewer blending challenges than ethanol and has a higher energy value.
Terrabon claims that MixAlco can be manufactured for $2 per gallon, compared with more than $3 per gallon for gasoline made with other technology. The company adds that the waste from a city of 250,000 residents can generate 6 million gallons of gasoline annually.
Waste Not, Want Not
Waste-to-energy is hardly a new concept, as Waste Management, Inc. alone operates 17 waste-to-energy plants in the U.S. The process involves taking municipal solid waste and placing it in a furnace, which produces electricity or steam.
A waste-to-energy plant is capable of generating 40,000 kilowatts of energy of electrical energy which can then be sold to utility companies. The remaining waste after this process is reduced by up to 90 percent, and further materials such as ferrous metal can be extracted and recycled.
According to the Department of Energy, the U.S. currently incinerates 14 percent of its solid waste to produce energy.
Source: Waste Management, Valero Energy, Terrabon, and WIH Resource Group
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