The waste-based diesel, unlike biodiesel, would be molecularly identical to crude oil-based diesel. Therefore, Covanta's Goff said, "it will not have some of the handling issues often experienced with biodiesel."
This year, the company plans to test the system at a new facility in West Wareham, Mass., with different types of trash ranging from paper and food waste to plastics and tires, since municipal solid waste is very heterogeneous. Based on the results of the tests, Covanta hopes to be able to gauge the project's economic viability by the end of the year.
Though the company will put "millions" of its own money into the project, the Army funds will be put toward testing the technology to meet U.S. EPA requirements and to apply desulfurization technology to the process to ensure it could meet ultra-low EPA sulfur requirements. Covanta declined to release the specific dollar amount it plans to invest in the project this year, citing competitive reasons.
Most of the company's business lies in energy-from-waste facilities that depend on burning trash to turn water into steam. That steam, in turn, powers turbines that continuously generate electricity. The company operates 44 plants, 41 of which are in the United States.
'Some refinement' needed
For this diesel project, Covanta secured a two-year permit with Massachusetts to operate a plant as a R&D site, but the company would need to apply for a commercial permit to continue to operate the plant if it is successful.
In recent years, the Army has explored gasification technology and ways to make ethanol out of specific kinds of trash that could run generators, but currently, this is the only waste-to-energy project funded with Army Corps research dollars. Cosper said the gasification technology is sound, but "some refinement" is required to make it usable in the field.
A 2009 GAO report suggested that systemic obstacles keep DOD from reducing its dependence on petroleum-based oil and effectively addressing fuel demand management issues at forward-deployed locations.
"DOD faces difficulty in achieving these goals because managing fuel demand at forward-deployed locations has not been a departmental priority and its fuel reduction efforts have not been well coordinated or comprehensive," GAO said. There are no waste-to-energy programs in wide use at military installations overseas.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500