By IAN ROSS
Sault Ste. Marie – To Jayson Zwierschke, garbage is a valuable resource that’s being buried.
Rather than just digging a hole and covering it up, the president of EnQuest Power Corporation wants to start mining municipal and industrial waste to produce fuel.
His Fonthill, Ont. firm has developed a new proprietary technology that converts waste streams into energy without incineration.
By utilizing a steam reformation unit, EnQuest expects to begin producing syngas next year in Sault Ste. Marie, to market as an environmentally
sustainable fuel that can be used for heating and in vehicles.
They’re leasing a bay at the city’s landfill site to test out a demonstration unit for a six-month project that may eventually evolve into a full-scale commercial operation.
With more than a $1 million privately invested, the company was set to begin four days of public consultation hearings in the Sault in early June as part of the process to obtain a Certificate of Approval from the Ministry of Environment to start their pilot program.
“Our target is to get running this summer,” says Zwierschke, whose company secured gasification technology through various patents and licensing agreements.
Steam reformation is the two-year-old environmental company’s backbone technology and the Sault’s test site is their first.
Once they have the system’s bugs worked out, Zwierschke is quite confident about having a unit operating by next year, preferably in the Sault.
“The goal is to work with the City of Sault Ste. Marie and build a commercial unit.”
For the initial demonstration phase, the unit should consume about a tonne of garbage per day. The gas produced will be flared.
Eventually they hope to establish a large-scale plant processing up to 100,000 tonnes of garbage a year and creating between 25 and 35 positions
for skilled tradespersons, stationary engineers and equipment operators.
To meet that anticipated need, EnQuest was finalizing an agreement in early June with Sault College and Niagara College to develop a training program to provide technicians for their plant.
Their gasification process works through an indirect heating process that involves no combustion of the waste feed stock.
Organic matter like municipal solid waste, forest product scrap, paper sludge, or anything else with a carbon base, is fed into a rotary kiln (a steam
reformer) and heated on the outside with natural gas up to a temperature of 900 C.
In what Zwierschke describes as an “oxygen-deprived environment,” water is injected into the process to prevent the material from actually burning.
“It causes a reaction that occurs with temperature and steam. We’re really using water to break down the waste product and it turns into gas.”
Carbon monoxide and hydrogen primarily come out the other end, which can be used for running conventional turbines, combustion motors, fuel cells, or to make ethanol, methanol and bio-diesel fuel.
No harmful by-products are produced and the small percentage of residual left over is basically an inert, gravelly material.
Zwierschke says the company’s primary focus is not so much to whittle down the landfill’s piles of old trash, but to feed off the new waste stream.
The project’s economics suggest it’s better to use fresh material. But the opportunity to mine landfills with this technology exists.
The company is considering various business options including licensing the technology, joint venturing with municipalities or operating the facilities for clients. Zwierschke says these operations can be very profitable. He has some preliminary figures for potential clients showing a favourable investment return well above commercial venture capital rates.
They’re also studying possible complementary back-end technologies to generate power and are examining the fuel cell market.
“The back-end matrix is quite large.”
He also sees opportunities to place commercial units in steel mills, sawmills or other manufacturing sites that can be fed with municipal waste or self-generating waste such as biomass.
Zwierschke says the timing of their technology is perfect.
Canada’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, rising energy prices and the general unpopularity toward creating more landfills are driving factors in government taking an interest in their project.
The ability to produce renewable fuel has drawn interest from the Ontario Centre of Excellence and EnQuest is submiting a $300,000 application to FedNor.
The company is also prepared to take advantage of Kyoto emissions credit programs.
They’ve struck an alliance agreement with GHGx, a new Toronto-based online emissions trading exchange, to validate and sell credits on the market.
“We generate a significant amount of credits because we are using municipal waste which produces methane when it sits in a landfill,” says
Zwierschke. “It will be a big part of our business.”