The first public presentation on a proposed clean energy plant to handle Grundy County’s garbage was given Tuesday before municipal leaders and community members.
The Grundy County Solid Waste Update Steering Committee held its second meeting and invited local officials to hear a proposal by Wayne McFarland, CEO of SynTech Bioenergy.
The steering committee is made up of county board members and members of the community and is created every five years to update the county’s solid waste plan. This time, the county is looking 20 years out, said Chairman Dick Joyce.
Eventually the committee will submit a report to the county’s Environmental Committee, which will go to the full county board and then to the state. The plan has to be submitted to the state by October of 2014, said Joyce.
“Gasification of garbage is not a brand new concept; it is done in other areas of the world, but this has different components,” said Joyce Wednesday. “It’s quite the proposal.”
The proposal is the use of waste remediation and material recovery technologies to provide a self-sustaining way to handle municipal solid waste rather than burning it or burying it in a landfill.
“It’s all about sustainability - economic sustainability and environmental sustainability,” said McFarland.
SynTech Bioenergy is looking for both Grundy County’s and the city of Morris’ support. The plan is to work with Morris for the land to construct the project and to obtain an agreement with the county to take on its garbage. The property preliminarily identified is 11 acres on Ashley Road, near the city’s landfills and its east side sewage treatment plant.
The unit needs 250 tons of municipal waste a day to operate. This can include all residential waste, including hazardous materials like batteries and paint, because the temperature it operates at can process through those items, said McFarland.
If it goes forward, it will create both permanent and construction jobs and enhance the local tax base, he said, as well as create a carbon negative footprint, have zero ground water impact and eventually eliminating the use of landfills.
His goal is to grow this technology throughout the country, making Morris its base. Long-term opportunities include landfill recovery by treating waste currently held in landfills, tire remediation, and handling waste water treatment sludge.
The project needs no funding from the taxpayers, said McFarland, and will be privately funded. What they need from the county and city is support.
The committee took no action on the project Wednesday, just heard the presentation.
FROM TRASH TO TREASURE
McFarland’s proposal covers all ends of the garbage remediation process, from hauling and sorting to reforming material into renewable energy. Virtually all waste is “recycled” as salable recovered materials or, ultimately, into sustainable clean energy.
Either through its own haulers or through another hauling company, which would pay SynTech Bioenergy tipping fees, residential and commercial waste would be brought to the plant. Valuable materials such as glass, paper, metals and plastic are removed in pre-sorting. Remaining material then goes through a trommel screen, which is a screened cylinder that separates additional recoverable materials by size.
Recovered materials of value would be sold to companies for recycling, which is another avenue of revenue for the company.
From material recovery, the residual waste then enters a “Feedstock Engineering” stage. Through a multi-step process of shredding, drying, blending and homogenization and compaction and densification, the waste is converted into dry, odorless, storeable solid fuel pellets. Feedstock is any renewable, biological or other material that can be converted to a useable form of fuel for the reactor for conversion to a sustainable energy product, in this case Syngas, electricity or liquid fuel.
These pellets are then run through an advanced thermo-chemical conversion process, which has no burning, flame, combustion or incineration, said McFarland. This process uses heat to cause a chemical reaction in matter at a molecular level to form it into something new, he said.
The thermo-chemical reaction converts the engineered fuel feedstock pellets into clean Syngas and environmentally friendly ash. The ash can be used for cement and fertilizer.
The Syngas is used in specially modified internal combustion engine/generators to make electricity. A small amount will be used in the plant, but most of the electricity would be put into the local grid as sustainable, uninterrupted, base load power.
“This creates renewable energy and is another revenue source,” said McFarland.
In a future phase, a small amount of the Syngas would go through another process to produce diesel fuel for the hauling trucks.
Because this is all under one roof is why Syntech Bioenergy is different than other gasification companies that try to do one portion of the process and not the entire process, said McFarland.
Right now, they need to work on getting the support of the county and city to build it. It is expected to be before the county at its April board meeting. Once approved, the hearing process would begin.
After those steps, McFarland anticipates six months for permitting and engineering. From there, it would be a 12-to-18-month construction cycle. The project is expected to cost between $35 and $45 million.
SynTech has no affiliation with SenreQ, which was another smaller-scale gasification unit that never got off the ground. It built a facility on Ashley Road, but the city ended its agreement with the company in 2007.