W2 Energy moves forward with pilot plant, mobile gasifiers

By Nicholas Zeman | November 20, 2009
Posted December 8, 2009

Laurel, Md., has commissioned W2 Energy Inc., headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, to build a pilot plant for the conversion of municipal solid waste into synthetic diesel fuel and electricity. W2 has deployed "a mobile plasma-assisted-gasifier" small enough to fit inside a 45 ft. trailer, with capacity to covert 4 tons of MSW per day from Laurel's landfill. "In addition to the Laurel project, we have plans to start manufacturing more of these mobile units," said Mike McLaren of W2 Energy. "We think the marketplace is huge for products like this."

"As the W2 Energy 4 ton plant proves itself, the company will work with the City of Laurel to designate a second site for a full size waste to energy plant," the company said, adding that Laurel will foot the bill for the construction of the bigger plant. "Based upon estimates done for W2 Energy by their engineering partner, one metric ton of municipal solid waste will be able to generate 101.25 gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel, JP8 jet fuel and electricity from steam generated by heat recovery," the company Web site states.

One component of the plant is The SunFilter-a tubular algae bioreactor designed to sequester nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases. The gases enter the bottom manifold of the SunFilter and bubble up through the algae tubes. Low-power ultraviolet lights, in combination with the gases, feed the algae, which grow and fill the tubes with blooms, McLaren said.

"Most reactors that make diesel fuel from syngas are highly exothermic, meaning they often get too hot," McLAren said. "Our reactor (called the Non-Thermal Plasmatron) performs the conversion at lower temperature, which means greater yields. Hot spots in other plasma gasifiers or fluidized beds will generate more methane and less diesel fuel."

W2 Energy is also using this technology to make diesel fuel at their facility in Guelph. When the algae blooms have reached an appropriate density, a set of magnetic rings inside the SunFilter tubes scrape them clean and push the algae upward to the upper manifold, where compressed air pushes the algae out. The algae is then compressed and dried, and then either fed back into the NT Plasmatron to be gasified or fed into a biodiesel reactor to make biodiesel. "The advantage of making biodiesel with the algae is that biodiesel has better lubricity than Fischer Tropsch diesel, while Fischer Tropsch diesel has a higher cetane," the company stated. "The combination of the two types of diesel makes a nearly perfect diesel."
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