S4 Energy Solutions, a joint venture formed by Waste Management and InEnTec in May 2009, will build a plasma gasification facility at Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Ore., that will convert municipal solid waste into clean fuels and renewable energy.
Construction of the project is set to begin in early summer with a start-up date by year end.
At the heart of the S4 system is the company’s Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) process that is said to provide a unique method of gasification for the conversion of waste into synthesis gas. With the PEM system, waste (organic) materials undergo two phases in the gasification chambers, which transform the carbon-based material into an ultra-clean synthesis gas (syngas). The clean syngas may be converted into transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, or industrial products like hydrogen and methanol, or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.
During the second stage of the PEM process, inorganic (non-carbon-based) materials are transformed into environmentally inert products.
Waste Management also began generating 6 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity at the site in January with the startup of a new landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facility. The LFGTE process captures methane gas generated as waste decomposes in the landfill. The electricity powers 5,000 homes in Seattle through an agreement with Seattle City Light. The site also has 67 wind turbines that produce more than 100 MW of renewable energy for PacifiCorp.
These projects are expected to help Waste Management meet two of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production to an energy equivalent of powering two million homes by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste.
Another project allows Waste Management to run some of its trucks on landfill gas. A landfill gas capture project at the Altamont Landfill near Livermore, Calif., powers 300 of Waste Management’s nearly 500 natural gas-powered waste and recycling collection trucks.