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Garbage Into Oil - How to turn garbage into fuel.

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May 15, 2003View for printing

The recipe for making crude oil is relatively simple: combine the remains of ferns, jellyfish, and dinosaurs; cover with sediment; bury deep in the earth’s crust; and apply pressure for millions of years—give or take an epoch.

By Tracy Staedter Visualize

Or if you’re pressed for time, run some turkey parts or used tires through the thermal process owned by Changing World Technologies of West Hempstead, NY.

The system uses water, pressure, and heat to convert organic material into clean fuel gas, absorbent carbon (like that used in water filters), minerals for fertilizer, and a crude oil that is chemically similar to a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline; this oil can be sold to refineries and converted into fuel. The system produces no polluting emissions, and the only by-product is water.

In April 2003, the first commercial thermo-depolymerization plant opened in Carthage, MO. Every day, the plant handles 200 tons of unused turkey parts produced by ConAgra’s Butterball turkey plant.

Such waste is now typically reprocessed into animal feed, but this practice may not be allowed much longer in the United States: Britain has already outlawed it in the wake of hoof-and-mouth and mad-cow disease outbreaks traced to reconstituted animal feed.

The first stage of the thermal process has been around since the 1960s as a way to convert organic waste into hydrocarbon liquids. But the process has been inefficient, says Changing World chief technology officer Terry Adams, because it typically employs a single reactor both to heat the organic matter and to convert it into oil.

That creates nonuniform heating, which breaks down molecules unevenly and results in a low-grade oil. Changing World uses two main reactors that heat and pressurize much more efficiently. And the system handles not only turkey offal but tires, plastics, sludge, municipal waste, paper, and livestock remains—expanding its potential for widespread use.

“They have certainly produced the products they’ve claimed at a smaller scale,” says MIT chemical engineer Jefferson Tester, who visited a pilot plant in Philadelphia and is intrigued by the larger-scale possibilities. Mother Nature can definitely transform the same products into usable fuel; you’d just have to wait a little longer.

Tracy Staedter is the managing editor at Technology Review.

Copyright 2003 Technology Review, Inc. All rights reserved ... ize0603.asp


Entrepreneur's plants cook wastes into oil

16 May 2003 By Bill Bergstrom, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The versatile turkey has been chopped, pressed, and processed into foods as diverse as burgers and bacon. Now a Long Island entrepreneur wants to put a turkey in your tank.

Brian S. Appel, chief executive of Changing World Technologies, has developed a process for cooking and pressurizing waste turkey parts — and lots of other things — into a golden liquid that can be refined into heating oil, diesel fuel, or gasoline.

He has attracted the attention of former CIA Director James Woolsey, who says the process can reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. An adviser to Appel's West Hempstead, N.Y., company, Woolsey traveled to Philadelphia last month for a demonstration of how the process could turn tires into oil.

Appel's process, called thermal depolymerization, is essentially an accelerated version of "the oldest of technologies, one that the Earth uses when it puts vegetables and dinosaurs under pressure" to form petroleum deposits, Woolsey said.

A $20 million facility at ConAgra's Butterball turkey plant in Carthage, Mo., is undergoing testing and is expected to start using the technique by the end of May, said Terry Adams, chief technology officer for Changing World Technologies. The plant ultimately will grind up, heat, pressurize, and process 200 tons a day of leftover turkey innards, bones, feathers, fats, and grease — enough to produce 600 barrels of oil daily, officials say.

Appel recently showed off the techniques at a pilot plant at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. In one end went tires, ground to quarter-inch bits by a giant industrial shredder. Out the other end came a caramel-colored liquid that resembles crude oil. The plants can sell the oil to fuel blenders for use in home heating or power-generating fuel. Refineries could process it as they do crude oil. Utilities could burn it for power. The process will digest just about anything: garbage, medical waste, hog manure, old tires.

Robert C. Brown, an engineering professor at the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies at Iowa State University, said scientists have known for years how to use thermal depolymerization to convert waste into energy. The problem, he said, is cost.

Biological materials, like turkey byproducts, contain water that must be removed before they can be turned into fuel. Brown said biomatter also contains oxygen, which gives it less explosive kick than fossil fuels. "I'd be surprised if they can do it at a good price," he said.

Appel acknowledged his process isn't competitive with crude oil. The Missouri plant will need to spend $15 a barrel to turn turkey waste into oil, compared with about $13 a barrel for small exploration and production companies and $5 for a major oil company, he said. Appel, 44, said the cost will fall as more plants are built. He is also pushing Congress for a clean-fuel subsidy to help it compete.

"If we take the plastics and the tires and the fats and the bones and we turn that into fuels, that will mean much less fossil fuel will need to be dug up out of the ground," Appel said.

Appel said byproducts from the process can be recycled: water pumped into a community water treatment facility, carbon and minerals sold to make tires and fertilizer, and gases like methane piped to generate the plant's electricity.

Environmental officials have shown interest. In 2001, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a $5 million grant to help develop the Missouri plant.

Changing World Technologies and the $27 billion ConAgra Foods conglomerate formed a partnership to share the rest of the $20 million cost and continue to commercialize the technique. ConAgra sees it not only as a business opportunity but also as a way to get rid of its own waste, said company spokeswoman Julie DeYoung.

Appel said 11 more projects are planned, including ones at a ConAgra turkey plant in Longmont, Colo.; a poultry plant in Enterprise, Ala.; and an onion dehydration plant in Fernley, Nev. The three projects received nearly $10 million in grants from the Department of Energy.

Source: Associated Press


Thermal Depolymerization plant closed

by Ron Graber

August 8, 2004

Despite the nasty odor that drifted through much of downtown Carthage on Thursday, Renewable Environmental Solutions Plant Manager Don Sanders says his plant will be odor free.

"Our goal is to operate at 100 percent with little to no odors," said Sanders on Friday morning. "We will do that."

Carthage Fire Chief John Cooper said Thursday's northeast wind brought numerous phone calls to his department regarding the smell which was determined to be coming from the RES plant just east of Butterball.

"It's kind of like singed hair," said Cooper.

He said the RES plant shut down production after complaints about the smell were raised. They later resumed production, then shut the plant down again after the smell resurfaced.

Sanders said the plant was operating Friday morning until another problem surfaced.

Sanders said odor complaints were first made back when the plant was operating at 20 percent of capacity. Modifications were then made to the process, and production was increased to 50 percent, then 75 percent, with modifications at each step.

Lately, the RES plant has been operating at 100 percent of capacity, and once again, modifications are being made to the thermal depolymerization process that converts materials from the Butterball plant into oils, gases, carbons and materials that can be used as fertilizer.

Plant officials have "bent over backwards" to eliminate the odor problem, said Cooper.

"They are trying to alleviate the problem," he said, also noting that he estimates that about half the time the Fire Department receives calls about RES odors, the smell is coming from elsewhere.

Regardless, RES officials say that as the plant is fine-tuned, they will eliminate the odor problem.

"We are optimistic," said Sanders. "It's just a matter of time."


Reader Comments:

As disposal of solid waste is an expensive problem, I wonder if the estimates include the price of disposing the source waste? The economic cost of this crude would be the difference in prices, not simply the final price per barrel.

That makes this process very appealing to me, especially with the health hazard poultry byproducts represent.
--Nate Schultz

I'm surprised that it has taken this long to get this technology underway.

Whatever the cost, this should be pursued. Lets "take the wind out of our enemy's sails" by developing alternate energy sources, and refusing to buy foreign oil.

This technology, if the hype proves to be true, brings hope for the future. I agree that we should do everything possible to rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil.

What better way to do it than to acheive many things at one time. 1)We would not be puting money into the pockets of terrorists (including corporate terrorists jacking fuel prices for any reason), 2)we would be taking waste that is currently a problem to dispose of and turn it into something valuable. 3)Create lots of jobs.

I hope this is for real.

Since it's now September, I'm just wondering how the ConAgra plant is doing. Is it living up to expectations? Is it doing better or worse than predicted? Sounds like a great technology, I'd like to hear some updates.

If this technology really works, along with the amount of garbage produced in the U.S., this Country could become the controlling member of OPEC.

Have any reporters followed up on the Con-Agra operation? If not, WHY?

Exactly, Osho, since it is now November 2003. I haven't heard any updates since the story was first published.

I contacted the publication that ran this story and they agreed that a follow-up story would be advisable. I hope that it will be published shortly. We will post it when it does.

I have contacted CWT and the MO plant and have replies from both. During mid and late Nov.2003 an official at the Cartage MO plant said they had 26 employees and the "front end" was producing enough material to furnish feed to the down stream processes which were being redesigned or modified. On Nov.28th CWT advised they were in the process of finishing start up.
A full review by outside QUALIFIED scientist and engineers is very much needed. X CIA Wosley and MO Senator Hunt do not qualify. JG

(Happy to pass along an update to the previous story)

Garbage as gold?

When Brian Appel was courting investors for his alternative energy company, he warned them, "When you put in your $2 million and $10 million, there's a good chance you'll lose it, because no one's ever built anything like this before."

By BETSY CUMMINGS - The New York Times Helena IR

Not exactly an enticing offer — and hardly one you would expect from a man who was the Russell Stover Candy salesman of the year in 1981 and, four years later, the designer of a ticket-sale computer system that led to the formation of Ticketmaster.

Appel was only half joking when he approached investors with that seemingly self-defeating pitch in the late 1990s. After all, his goal — to build a machine that turns animal byproducts into oil — was something of a long shot. And when he flipped the switch three months ago on a machine capable of converting 200 tons a day of turkey feathers, guts and bones into liquid fuel, it was still too early to gauge the outcome.

But Appel was, and remains, undaunted by skepticism toward his project or by other scientists' failed dreams of recycling waste into fuel. The fact that the $22 million plant in Carthage, Mo., a joint venture of his fledgling Changing World Technologies Inc. in West Hempstead, N.Y., and the giant ConAgra Foods, is up and running shows that it is no pipe dream, he says.

Appel recalls his conversion from hard-knuckled executive to entrepreneur while on vacation with his family in St. Tropez in the mid-1990s. He suddenly realized he wanted to do more with his life than make deals as the president of Atlantis International, a trading company.

"So I called my partner and said, ‘Look, it might sound like I'm drunk, but this is what I want to do,' '' said Appel, 45. ‘‘I'd like to go out and develop this technology, because if I do, then it's going to make the world a better place.' ''

Today, that means trucking in scraps from the Butterball turkey processing plant next door to the Missouri plant, turning it into oil and delivering the experimental fuel to the Carthage Water and Electric plant one mile down the road.

If the emissions meet government environmental standards when testing begins, and if Carthage decides to use the oil for the long term, it will pay roughly $33 a megawatt hour for it, compared with $14 for coal and $55 to $120 for gas, Changing World says.

The company's technology, thermal depolymerization, mimics the earth's creation of fossil fuel from extreme heat and pressure, but in hours rather than eons. The process breaks down organic waste — chicken bones, say — and rebuilds it into liquid fuel.

Appel had his work cut out putting together a management team. Terry Adams, a former engineering professor and now the company's chief technology officer, recalls his initial skepticism.

‘‘There had to be a thousand of these schemes in the course of 30 years that I reviewed closely as part of my job as a consultant,'' Adams, 59, said. ‘‘And they all, clearly from the beginning, were not going to make it.''

But then he looked up the patent that Changing World Technologies had filed and liked what he saw. And he was impressed with Appel's business credentials and technical expertise. He joined the company in 1999 and recruited talent like the former CIA director James Woolsey.

All five members of the original management team abandoned high-powered careers for 20-hour days at the start-up's headquarters in a Long Island house. Even today, after six years, the company's commercial success is still just around the corner.

‘‘I tried to convince my wife and family to take this job by saying, ‘For a year or two it will be tough, then things should get going,' '' said Craig Einfeldt, manager of the company's pilot plant in Philadelphia. ‘‘Here we are five years later, and we're just starting our first plant.''

It's not easy trying to replicate what Mother Earth does. From the first patent the company filed in 1997 to the one it submitted in October, Appel says, it had to fix half a dozen major design flaws and make 400 minor alterations at the Carthage plant. And its first test in the Philadelphia pilot plant produced useless fuels that were contaminated with chlorine and nitrogen or toxic dioxins.

The company's big break came in December 2000, when ConAgra formed a limited liability partnership with it to develop the Missouri plant, helping the $27 billion food company solve its problem of dumping agricultural waste.

Appel says he has enough clients to buy all the fuel he can produce for the next four years and predicts business will explode over the next decade. ‘‘The dot-com boom will be slow compared to what we're doing,'' he said.

That may be an overstatement, but his company does seem to be on a growth track. ... 0703_03.txt

I read about this technology a while ago and thought how awesome this could be. My second thought was, how will it get past those big oil companies and all their politicians? They certainly don’t want to see this happen unless they stand to control it in someway. Will the politicians give out huge tax breaks and credits like big oil gets?


Is there some reason why the media isn't all over this? Turning our gabage and waste into virtually emmissions free fuel. I talk to people evey day and nobody even believes me.

I agree with go2bme. I havnt heard a word in over a year. I was convinced the man that invented the machine had been placed in it and converted into fuel. considering the threat this machine would be placing on certain oil tycoons, right here in america, not to mention the middle east.

You will be glad to hear that the first TDP plant is operating at 100% capacity in Carthage, MO ( Their biggest problem appears to be odors, which seems to have caused several shut-downs. The odors appear to be the result of blow-down, which is necessary to prevent the steam pipes from popping. The odor problem should be manageable. All-in-all, things appear to be progressing nicely.

I worked on a similiar project that was focused on tires only. The concept is great and the need is there to eventually make it a reality. However in the descriptions I've read they discuss what happens to the bulk of the material. I wonder what happens when you feed unsorted municipal waste into the system that contain batteries and other items with a wide array of nasty materials in it. Are these side products broken down, retained in the fuel or "fertilizer", or extracted somehow?

'cmon, sensitivenose....these problems don't sound insurmountable....
You sound like another envirofreak who objects even to windturbines because they occasionally kill birds.
The biggest problem in this country's energy plan is the environmentalists who object to absolutely everything.

..not so fast. Read on... . As always, there is the 'rest of the story'. RES is not a solution, but is now a source of problems.

The town is full of republicans that can smell it.

April 13, 2005

Nixon, city of Carthage file public nuisance suit against RES for failure to control foul odors coming from plant
Carthage, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon and the city of Carthage today announced a lawsuit ( 33K) filed in Jasper County Circuit Court against Renewable Environmental Solutions for failure to abate a public nuisance — namely, a foul odor that area residents have found intolerable.

"The people of Carthage deserve the right to enjoy their homes and their community without having to tolerate a rotten stench every time they walk out their front door," Nixon said. "RES has received numerous complaints, and has had ample opportunity to find a remedy. Perhaps the court will get the company’s attention where the city and the public could not."

--roy blundt

Carthage plant cited fifth time 7/16/05

RES attracts dozens of new odor complaints

Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Mo. - Renewable Environmental Solutions was cited again for odor emissions on Friday after residents made dozens of complaints to state regulators.

The notice was the fifth issued by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources against the Carthage company that converts poultry byproducts into crude oil and other materials.

DNR officials received about 45 odor complaints on Thursday, according to Mark Rader, air and land section chief with the agency's Springfield office.

"It smelled yesterday and it's smelling today. The staff did document excess emissions this morning and we've notified them," (RES), he said.

Rader said plant officials cited a valve malfunction on Thursday, lab work on Friday, and the distillation process, on Tuesday, for the odors.

"They have a reason for every day. It would be nice if those reasons would go away," he said.

A statement issued on behalf of the plant blamed media reports of comments from David Mouton, Carthage city attorney, who said residents should contact the state when they smell odors from the plant.

"The modifications recently installed at the RES plant have improved operations, and additional changes are being made," read a statement form the office of Julie Gross Gelfand, of HLD/Blankman Public Relations.

"The sudden spike in calls that DNR is experiencing appears to coincide with the recently published request for residents to complain about RES to DNR. "Complaints are being lodged even on days when we are not operating or when wind conditions are inconsistent with the complaint, As always, we will continue to monitor our operations. We will continue to make additional improvements to the plant as warranted, and work closely with DNR."

Lori Byrd, who lives a few blocks to the south and west of the plant, said she was among those calling DNR.

"If it had gotten any stronger, we were going to go to a motel and send RES the bill," she said.

Byrd said her five children could not sleep in their own rooms Thursday night, because they are on the second floor of her home, and cooled with fans. Instead, she said everyone stayed on the main floor, which is air-conditioned.

"Even at that, we had to light candles and do everything else to make it bearable," she said. "And the kids haven't been able to play outside, because it's been so bad."

Mouton said the plant still is working to address odor problems, but "they are far, far from where they need to be."

Continuing efforts are the reason state officials so far have not recommended that odor violations translate to financial penalties, according to Steve Feeler, chief of enforcement in the state's air-pollution control program.

At this point RES could face fines of up to $10,000 per day.

"Fines are decided by the director's office, but we haven't sought them because they have continued to implement new odor-control efforts," he said. "That could change if they stop cooperating, or if the number of violations reaches the point where we feel there is no other recourse."

Rader said the plant still is testing an ozone generator to determine if it would improve the odor problems. He said the equipment was installed about two weeks ago, and that the plant has increased the height stack on a thermal oxidizer installed in May after the city and the Missouri Attorney General's office filed a public-nuisance lawsuit against the company.

The equipment was installed in response to a consent judgment entered into by the company, the city and the state. The city and the two state agencies more recently have asked the company to make additional changes, including keeping all outside containers that hold produce or waste securely covered, adding a vapor-capture system to trucks used to transport the oil produced at the plant and hiring a contractor approved by DNR to perform an odor survey of the Carthage area.

Lori Byrd said it appeared that earlier efforts by the plant had worked, because several weeks passed without an odor problem.

"We had a few weeks that there was no smell," she said. "It was wonderful because were able to enjoy being outside. I don't want to see anyone lose their jobs but I want a life for my kids and this town. We have a beautiful town and no one is going to want to come here if it stinks."

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