August 25, 2013

Officials watch pyrolysis in Germany

Mayor, LMU superintendent tour plants

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin and Logansport Municipal Utilities Superintendent Paul Hartman spent Aug. 18 through Tuesday in Germany touring two facilities using technology identical and similar to the kind being planned for an electricity plant in Logansport that would be powered by refuse-derived fuel.

After touring the sites, observing their processes and meeting with the scientists and engineers involved, both officials said they continue to have confidence in the project.

“I’m never going to recommend something to anybody without seeing it and knowing how it works,” Hartman said. “We want to make sure what we’re recommending is real.”

One of their stops was at a pilot facility operated by Pyrolyzer LLC, the company out of Boca Raton, Fla., that the city is negotiating with to develop a plant that will be privately funded at a cost now estimated to be about $600 million.

Franklin said Pyrolyzer’s pilot facility is located in the city of Forst, about 90 miles south of Berlin. He said no electricity is generated at the plant, but rather the gas that would be used to power turbines to create electricity. The plant is operated intermittently and is mainly used to run tests for companies like General Electric and Siemens to determine the gas’s compatibility with their equipment.

“I watched feedstock being fed into a Pyrolyzer unit and watched gas come out of the other side,” Franklin said.

The pilot plant is set to convert refused-derived feedstock at a rate of about four tons per day, roughly one one-thousandth of what would be required to run the plant being negotiated for Logansport.

Franklin said Logansport’s plant won’t consist of one enormous gasifier, but 20 replicas of the one in Forst all set at different rates and heating refuse-derived fuels with various British thermal unit contents to produce enough gas that will in turn power the city.

“We know the smaller version works,” he said. “We’re going to buy 20 of the smaller versions instead of one big version. We’re just duplicating what we know works.”

Hartman said it wouldn’t take long for the employees at LMU’s current generating plant to become acclimated with Pyrolyzer’s technology, known as pyrolysis.

“We went through every piece and part of the process,” he said. “There’s nothing in there so complex that it would take a rocket scientist to figure out. They’re parts and pieces of technology from around the world brought together.”

For example, Hartman said there is an augur stirring the feedstock within its stainless steel tank, which is being heated from the outside, to ensure the feedstock is distributed evenly as the steam produced off it rises into another tank. That steam is then incinerated into a gas, which, at the plant being negotiated for Logansport, would then power turbines to create electricity.

Hartman said these kinds of augurs are used in industries as stirring mechanisms for things like corn, sludge and ethanol byproducts.

Both officials maintained that the emissions from the gas created in the plant does not contain harmful chemicals like dioxin, a matter of ongoing debate surrounding the project. Franklin said he is working on obtaining test results that prove those statements.

The officials’ second tour was at a materials recycling facility that provided them with an example of how the municipal solid waste that would become the plant’s fuel could be sorted, ground up and prepared for gasification.

The materials recycling facility, or MRF, owned by ALBA, is about a 30-minute drive from Berlin, Franklin said. The MRF takes refuse like municipal solid waste, insulation, plastics and tires and converts them into pellets that become feedstock for facilities like Pyrolyzer’s in Forst.

The tumblers and separators in the facility sort materials based on their density, letting the more dense materials that are dangerous to burn like metals and glass fall, while the lighter, safer-to-burn materials move up into a grinder to be turned into pellets.

While the materials and processes are similar for the ones being planned for Logansport, Franklin and Hartman said they, Pyrolyzer and the consultants assisting with the project are still considering whether ALBA’s exact practices will be adopted at Logansport’s plant.

“If there’s a good revenue stream for pellets, they may use it,” Hartman said. “We want every side to make money. Our side — the citizens — we want to lower their electric rates, that’s our cost reduction. We want Pyrolyzer to make money too. It will be a win-win for everybody at that point.”

Franklin said he is not yet certain on the total cost of the trip, but that it was paid for through funds already appropriated by city council to William-Lynn-James, a consulting firm out of Indianapolis, for research and development costs for the project.

Franklin, as he has maintained in the past, said he plans to pursue the reimbursement of all consulting fees in negotiations with Pyrolyzer.

Franklin added he is still expecting negotiations with the company to go through October.

“In the U.S., we’ve never been forced to deal with trash,” Franklin said. “We’ve never been forced to deal with coal emissions. Now we’re going to have to. They’re both on a collision course for success.”

Hartman said he will be speaking about the trip at the next Utility Service Board meeting, which will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Utility Board Room on the third floor of the City Building, 601 E. Broadway.

If you go: WHAT: Utility Service Board meeting WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday WHERE: Utility Board Room on third floor of the City Building, 601 E. Broadway WHY: Paul Hartman, Logansport Municipal Utilities superintendent, will speak about his trip to Germany to visit a plant with technology like that which has been proposed to power Logansport.