Imagine if you could change all of the waste you created in the world to fuel? Hard to believe? Well the future is here. A company called Changing World Technologies has developed a process that can do just that, change waste into fuel. The amazing thing is the system can handle almost anything from turkey guts, to old computers, to anthrax spores. And the product? Oil and gas (both usable for fuel), water (which is recycled into the process), and a variety of usable minerals.
While the name for this new process is tough (its called a thermal depolymerization process or tdp) the process is relatively simple. You pretty much cook the heck out of the stuff to break complex molecular structures into simpler ones. First you have to grind up the waste so everything is no larger than a pea. Then you mix in a bunch of water and cook everything in a big pressure cooker at 500 degrees under 600 pound of pressure for about 15 minutes. The next step is the innovative secret. In the past, engineers have tried to boil all the water off so they could get to all the stuff that was left, but boiling water takes a lot of heat and energy. In this new process, the engineers figured out that by quickly changing the pressure, they could separate up to 90% of the water from the other stuff, and best of all, they didn’t have to really cool the water down. So the water can be pumped into the next batch and the goop that was left in the pot can go to the second stage.
The second stage is similar to what we do to refine oil. Basically, the goop is heated again, but this time up to about 900 degrees. The resulting hot material then goes into vertical distillation tanks, which separate it into gases, light oils, heavy oils, water, and solid carbon. The gases are used on site to fuel the process; the oils and carbon are put into barrels to be sold. Voila, no more waste material, and money to be made. To top things off, the process is so effective, the EPA has classified the plant as a manufacturing facility instead of a waste treatment plant. Your waste becomes raw material for the manufacture of fuel and other products.
Engineers have calculated that the process is 85% efficient. That means that for every 100 BTU’s of the feed stock you use only about 15 BTU’s to run the process, the rest is converted into usable energy.
If you can’t wait to get a plant like this in your city you are not alone. There is a furry of interest in this new technology. But things are still in the early stages of development. The first commercial plant was built in Carthage, Missouri in 2004, next to a turkey processing plant. This plant is currently producing 100-200 barrels but is expected to be able to produce 500 barrels a day. The only by-product generated is processed water. Other plants in locations around the US, in Canada and in Italy are in the planning stages.
The future for this technology is bright. Imagine a world without garbage and few toxic waste problems! Where our trash has value and everything is recycled and reused. No more drilling for oil or depending on oil imports. In 2001 the US imported 4.2 billion barrels of oil. Just converting the agricultural waste in the US into oil and gas would generate 4 billion barrels of fuel each year. Imagine that one day a Thermal depolymerization unit will be developed for your house. Then when you flush you toilet, dump your lawn clippings and scrape the dinner scraps off you plate, you be heating your home and filling your car with your own home grown future fuel!
AFV: Alternative Fuel Vehicle
LEV: Low Emissions Vehicle
ULEV: Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle
SULEV: Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle
ZEV: Zero Emissions Vehicle
PZEV: Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle
ATPZEV: Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV vehicles are SULEV-rated with zero evaporative emissions and differ slightly due to emission standards)
MPG: Miles Per Gallon
Natural Gas: used as a clean burning alternative fuel; might be used to make hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles in the future; may be refueled at home through the home natural gas system with a special adapter
CNG: Compressed Natural Gas; can be stored in a vehicle for refueling
LNG: Liquefied Natural Gas; can be stored in a vehicle for refueling
Propane: is being used as a clean burning alternative fuel; is the most readily available alternative fuel source because the infrastructure for fueling already exists; may be used on its own or in combination with a gasoline system
LPG: Liquefied Petroleum Gas; propane
Ethanol: typically derived from corn or other feed type grains and blended with gasoline to improve emissions
E85: Ethanol 85%: a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline
FFVs: Flexible Fuel Vehicles: vehicles that run on E85
Hybrid: typically a gas/electric combination system
EV: Electric Vehicle
Electric Vehicle: a system that uses a battery to store electricity; generally plugged into standard electric grid for recharge
FCV: Fuel Cell Vehicle
Fuel Cell Vehicle: Hydrogen is used to create energy without the use of a battery
Hydrogen: being used in most fuel cell prototype vehicles to create electricity that powers a battery; only by products are oxygen and water
Methanol: being used in some fuel cell prototype vehicles; may be more feasible than wide spread use of hydrogen fuel*
BioDiesel: a diesel fuel typically made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled grease; often used as a fuel blend with standard diesel (but may require modifications to ensure continued performance)
DOE: Department of Energy
AFDC: Alternative Fuels Data Center
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