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[GreenYes] Re: Biosolids. Fla Plasma Redux base elements and gas



Plant seeks to make landfills obsolete producing power from trash
BY BRIAN SKOLOFF
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- Welcome to the future, where trash is fuel and
landfills are obsolete.

While trash to power isn't a new idea, Geoplasma, a sister company of
Atlanta-based Jacoby Development Inc., has a grand plan to take it into the science
fiction realm and do away with dumps by vaporizing garbage into synthetic
gas and steam to create electricity.

The company plans to build a $425 million plasma arc gasification facility
here in St. Lucie County, the first of its kind in the nation and the largest
in the world. The facility should be up in about two years.

It will generate heat hotter than the sun's surface and will gasify and melt
3,000 tons of garbage a day by creating an arc between two electrodes and
using high pressure air to form plasma. It's a process similar to how lightning
is formed in nature.

St. Lucie County officials estimate their entire landfill - 4.3 million tons
of trash - will be gone in 18 years.

No byproduct will go unused, according to Geoplasma. The plant will produce
enough synthetic gas - a substitute for natural gas - to power up to 43,000
homes annually, and to run the facility free from outside electricity.

Molten material much like lava created from melted organic matter - up to
600 tons a day - will be hardened into rock form, or slag, and sold for use in
road and construction projects. It will also gasify sludge from the county's
wastewater plant, and steam will be sold to a neighboring Tropicana Products
Inc. facility to power the juice plant's turbines.

"This is sustainability in its truest and finest form," Geoplasma President
Hilburn Hillestad said.

For years, some waste management facilities have been converting methane -
created by rotting trash in landfills - to power. Plants also burn trash to
produce electricity.

Houston-based Waste Management Inc., the largest private waste management
company in North America, has processed 118 million tons of garbage into energy
in the past 30 years, equivalent to about 120 million barrels of oil, said
company spokeswoman Lynn Brown.

The company hopes to one day capture all usable methane gas from its more
than 280 active landfills to create the renewable energy equivalent of about 22
million barrels of oil a year, roughly equivalent to American consumption in
a single day, Brown said.

But experts say population growth will limit space available for future
landfills.

"We've only got the size of the planet. We can't create more space," said
Richard Tedder, program administrator for the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection's solid waste division. "Because of all of the pressures of
development, people don't want landfills. It's going to be harder and harder to
site new landfills, and it's going to be harder for existing landfills to
continue to expand as people move in next to them."

The facility in St. Lucie County, on central Florida's Atlantic Coast, aims
to solve that problem by eliminating the need for a landfill. Only two
similar facilities are operating in the world - both in Japan - but are gasifying
garbage on a much smaller scale.

"It's high on the list of interest as far as the federal government," said
Rick Brandes, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency's waste
minimization division. "For the amount of energy produced, you get significantly less of
certain pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter."

Brandes said the European Union is also studying the technology for reducing
waste and producing power.

But Bruce Parker, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National
Solid Wastes Management Association, scoffs at the notion that plasma
technology will eliminate the need for landfills. Americans generated 236 million
tons of garbage in 2003, about 4.5 pounds per person, per day, according to the
latest figures from the EPA. Roughly 130 million tons went to landfills -
enough to cover a football field 703 miles high with garbage.

"We do know that plasma arc is a legitimate technology, but let's see first
how this thing works for St. Lucie County," Parker said. "It's too soon for
people to make wild claims that we won't need landfills."

NASA began using similar technology in the 1960s to simulate heat generated
during a spacecraft's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. The technology is
also used to melt steel from car parts.

The torch used in Geoplasma's design is made by Westinghouse Plasma Corp.

"It's really a form of artificial lightning," said Louis Circeo, director of
Georgia Tech's plasma research division, which is helping with Geoplasma's
development.

Circeo said that as energy prices soar and landfill fees increase, plasma
arc technology will become more affordable.

"Municipal solid waste is perhaps the largest renewable energy resource that
is available to us," Circeo said, adding that the process "could not only
solve the garbage and landfill problems in the United States and elsewhere, but
it could significantly alleviate the current energy crisis."

He said that if large plasma facilities were put to use nationwide to
vaporize trash, they could theoretically generate electricity equivalent to about
25 nuclear reactors.

Geoplasma expects to recoup it's $425 million investment, funded by bonds,
within 20 years through the sale of electricity and slag.

"That's the silver lining," said company president Hillestad, adding that
St. Lucie County won't pay a dime.

The company expects to generate worldwide interest with the Florida
facility, which will serve as a model to prove its effectiveness.

Leo Cordeiro, the county's solid waste director, said officials have been
researching ways to reduce landfilled garbage for several years and reached out
to Geoplasma for help.

"We didn't want to do it like everybody else," Cordeiro said. "We knew there
were better ways."

County Commissioner Chris Craft said the plasma process "is bigger than just
the disposal of waste for St. Lucie County."

"It addresses two of the world's largest problems - how to deal with solid
waste and the energy needs of our communities," Craft said. "This is the end
of the rainbow. It will change the world."

On The Net:

Geoplasma:

Westinghouse Plasma Corp.:

Last modified: August 19. 2006 12:01AM

Leonard E. Wheeler, Jr.,


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