How the US Air Force is turning dumpster refuse into power.

R & R Roll off dumpsterIn Hawaii, the US Air Force is using 6.8 million dollars to test their ability to demonstrate the possibility of using the gas (called syngas) emitted from trash such as wood, plastics and other biomass into power.

This is not new as the first US waste treatment plant using incineration to attempt to change waste to energy was built at Ryker’s Island NY in 1885!

The military has a special interest in creating power from waste as they are looking at ways to still have power off the grid in case of an attack or failure of the power system. Maybe we should look at how to create power from our own waste!

The goal of this Air Force project is to turn 10 tons of trash a day to enough power to provide for about 100 homes, or about 300 KW.

In case you were wondering, 100 tons is equal to about 17 of our largest dumpster!

The project is based on a process called gasification. This technology feeds waste into a large vessel where it is treated with a plasma technology causing a very high temperature producing syngas (synthetic gas). The syngas is treated, cleaned and then used as fuel in gas turbines to generate electricity.

A successful project will help move the Defense Department towards its goal of using renewable resources for at least 25 percent of its energy by 2025.

In the mainstream waste management world the focus is ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, followed by composting and digestion.

This line of thinking leaves a significant proportion of residual waste in need of disposal. There is plenty of room for landfills in rural areas in the US so this process can continue for a long time. But time seems to go by fast!

Waste sent to landfill is often too contaminated to be recycled or biologically treated. Instead, if it is to be diverted from landfill, it must be treated with high heat.

This uses to mean incineration or burning, which requires the emissions to be scrubbed and also produces toxic ash.

Gasification produces syngas that can be upgraded into a variety of products including liquid fuels, chemicals, methane or electrical power. This means the process is adaptable to local conditions and needs.

Some types of gasification also operate at much higher temperatures than tradition incineration. At 4000°F (2200°C) organic hazards are completely destroyed and minerals are melted, allowing all the material to be safely converted into useful products.

Of course this requires investment to build and manage, so we hope that this new Air Force project continues to show improvement in this process.

The good news for us is that dumpsters are still needed – so call us today at 770-975-9554!