Future Fuels, Inc. (FFI) and Startech Environmental Corporation (OTC BB: STHK.OB) have signed a global strategic alliance to obtain contracts for waste-to-ethanol facilities and also for FFI's own $84 million waste-to-energy facility to be constructed in Toms River, New Jersey. FFI has issued a letter of intent to Startech for purchase and installation of a 100 ton-per-day Startech Plasma Converter System (PCS) for installation at Toms River, scheduled to go on line in late 2007. Plans also call for the Toms River Facility expansion to include a series of additional Startech 100 ton-per-day PCSs.
The Toms River Facility will produce 52 million gallons per year of ethanol from used tires. The PCS, using a plasma that reaches 30,000 degrees Centigrade, will first completely destroy the tires, producing a synthesis gas called Plasma Converted Gas (PCG). For each unit of electrical energy the Converter uses it will produce between four and ten units of energy residing in the PCG. The PCG, a mixture of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen is the input for FFI's catalytic ethanol synthesis process, a modified Fischer-Tropsch process. The process applies heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst to chemically transform the PCG into ethanol.
According to the Startech website:
Plasma is simply a gas (air) that the Converter ionizes so it becomes an effective electrical conductor and produces a lightning-like arc of electricity that is the source of the intense energy transferred to the waste material as radiant energy. The arc in the plasma plume within the vessel can be as high as 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit ... three times hotter than the surface of the Sun. When waste materials are subjected to the intensity of the energy transfer within the vessel, the excitation of the wastes' molecular bonds is so great that the waste materials' molecules break apart into their elemental components (atoms). It is the absorption of this energy by the waste material that forces the waste destruction and elemental dissociation. The Plasma Converter is computer controlled, easy to use and operates at normal atmospheric pressure, very safely and quietly
The plasma vessel is a cylindrical two-part container made of stainless steel with an opening in the roof through which the plasma torch is inserted. The vessel is lined with insulation and refractory to allow both maximum retention of internal energy and to protect the stainless steel container from the intense heat inside the vessel. The plasma vessel is equipped with inspection ports (including a video camera so the operator can see real time images inside the vessel to assist in PCS operation), openings for introduction of feedstock, and an exit port for removal of excess molten material (melt). ... A design enhancement incorporated into the most recently constructed system is a continuous melt extraction feature which maintains the level of molten material in the plasma vessel at or below a preset limit without interrupting the operation of the system. This melt extraction system can be deployed with all sizes of Plasma Converters.
The plasma vessel is specially designed to ensure that no feedstock material is able to reach the exit port without first passing through the plasma energy field and undergoing complete molecular dissociation. The method by which this is accomplished forms a part of Startech's intellectual property. In addition, the plasma vessel is maintained at a slight negative pressure to ensure that no gases can escape to atmosphere.
The plasma torch system is a commercially available product that Startech can purchase from any number of reputable vendors. Comparable plasma systems have been used extensively in the metallurgical industry for decades. The most maintenance-intensive aspect of the PCS is the need to periodically replace electrodes, which occurs approximately every 300 to 500 hours of operation (typical). Electrode replacement can be accomplished in approximately 30 minutes thus ensuring minimum downtime of the PCS.
The PCS is also equipped with a torch positional system that allows the operator to aim the torch at different points within the plasma vessel. This aspect of the PCS allows the operator to quickly and efficiently treat feedstock as they enter the vessel and move around inside the vessel to avoid any build-up of solidified melt that may occur on the vessel walls.
The PCG exiting the plasma converter vessel (PCV), this vessel is analogous to the gasifier in the energy industries, goes to the gas treatment system where it is cooled and undergoes several steps of treatment to remove undesirable impurities.
The PCG is first cooled from approximately 1000°C down to 650°C by direct water injection in a spray dryer. The PCG then flows through a conventional, insulated cyclone fabricated with high temperature alloy and designed to operate at high temperatures which removes particulate matter, which is then collected and batch-fed back into the PCV.
PCG then flows to a spray dryer designed to rapidly cool the gas from approximately 650°C down to 120°C. to ensure that dioxins and furans, do not form. In order for dioxins and furans to form, the gas would need to remain in a specific temperature zone (e.g., 190°C to 330°C) for some period of time - conditions which are precluded by the quench.
PCG then flows to a commercial pulsejet cartridge dust collector with high-temperature cartridges and heating elements to prevent condensation. This unit automatically batch-feeds the collected solids into the PCV.
The PCG from the dust collector is reheated to approximately 310°C for selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of NOx in a standard unit where hydrogen present in the PCG reacts with NOx to form atmospheric nitrogen and water. During periods where there is no hydrogen in the PCG (e.g. during start-up, when processing materials that do not contain carbon), urea is added to reduce the NOx.
Upon exiting the SCR, the PCG is cooled by direct water injection to below 50°C. prior to entering a standard horizontal packed column scrubber for acid gas removal. Inorganic species in the PCG dissolve into the scrubbing liquid. Make-up water is added to control the build-up of these salts. The wastewater typically requires no further treatment prior to discharge to sewer unless there is a high concentration of heavy metals entering the system with the feedstock. Approximately 75% of metals go into the melt with the remainder being volatilized and entrained in the PCG where they are captured by the scrubber and in a carbon filter . The wastewater also contains particulates below one micron.
Finally, a standard variable speed fan at the exit of the gas treatment train pulls PCG through the entire system and maintains a constant, slight negative pressure within the PCV.
The PCG is then piped to the FT unit where it is converted to ethanol.
The Future Fuels Inc., a subsidiary of Nuclear Solutions Inc.(OTC BB: NSOL.OB), has received preliminary approval from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for $84 million tax-exempt bond financing. FFI has the lease agreement in place to construct the facility in Toms River and it has also secured pre-approved state and local environmental permits to operate the new facility. It already has the source of feedstock, on site, and available from its tire recycling network, suitable for complete life cycle production of clean ethanol. FFI also has a 10-year contract with Eco-Energy, Inc., of Tennessee for Eco-Energy to purchase approximately 50 million gallons of the ethanol produced annually from FFI's new waste-to-ethanol facility.
Startech Environmental and Future Fuels Form a Strategic Alliance for the Production of Ethanol Fuel from Tires, Startech press release, March 15, 2006
Future Fuels, Inc. and Startech Environmental Corp. form Global Strategic Alliance, Nuclear Solutions press release, March 13, 2006
Startech Environmental Corp. Bristol, CT, USA
Nuclear Solutions, Inc. Washington DC, USA
The Energy Blog: Ethanol From Tires Via Plasma Converter Plus Fischer Tropsch