Environment

Video: World's first industrial-scale waste-to-biofuels facility

Video: World's first industria...
Gizmag pays a visit to the city of Edmonton's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
Gizmag pays a visit to the city of Edmonton's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
View 12 Images
Gizmag pays a visit to the city of Edmonton's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
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Gizmag pays a visit to the city of Edmonton's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
The process begins with garbage trucks dumping their loads of municipal solid waste on the tipping floor at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility
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The process begins with garbage trucks dumping their loads of municipal solid waste on the tipping floor at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility
That waste is scooped up and placed on a conveyor belt
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That waste is scooped up and placed on a conveyor belt
It's conveyed to another area where it's mechanically and manually sorted into compostable and non-compostable materials
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It's conveyed to another area where it's mechanically and manually sorted into compostable and non-compostable materials
While the compostable material heads off to the city's Composting Facility, the non-compostable material is conveyed to the next area
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While the compostable material heads off to the city's Composting Facility, the non-compostable material is conveyed to the next area
There, it's made into what's known as Refuse Derived Fuel, or RDF
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There, it's made into what's known as Refuse Derived Fuel, or RDF
The RDF is a mixture of the non-compostable garbage ...
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The RDF is a mixture of the non-compostable garbage ...
... soiled plastics and paper goods that aren't fit for recycling ...
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... soiled plastics and paper goods that aren't fit for recycling ...
... plus wood chips and residual materials from the recycling facility
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... plus wood chips and residual materials from the recycling facility
Things like rocks and bits of metal are filtered out of the mixture, and it's then shredded into RDF, also known as "garbage fluff"
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Things like rocks and bits of metal are filtered out of the mixture, and it's then shredded into RDF, also known as "garbage fluff"
The RDF is conveyed from the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility, to the Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
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The RDF is conveyed from the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility, to the Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility
There, it's heated to break its chemical bonds, ultimately resulting in the production of methanol, ethanol, and other chemical products
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There, it's heated to break its chemical bonds, ultimately resulting in the production of methanol, ethanol, and other chemical products
View gallery - 12 images

Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can't be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It's the world's first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and we recently got a guided tour of the place.

The process begins with garbage trucks dumping their loads on the tipping floor at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility. The trash is manually and mechanically sorted, with things like appliances being set aside for electronic parts recycling and e-waste disposal, while organic matter heads off to the Composting Facility.

Recyclable materials are already pre-separated by citizens as part of the city's blue bag program. They avoid the garbage stream entirely, going straight to the Materials Recovery Facility for recycling.

Soon, though, high-carbon materials such as wood, fabric and discarded plastic will be getting shredded into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), also known as "garbage fluff." It will be transferred to the Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility, which is owned and operated by Enerkem Alberta Biofuels.

Things like rocks and bits of metal are filtered out of the mixture, and it's then shredded into RDF, also known as "garbage fluff"
Things like rocks and bits of metal are filtered out of the mixture, and it's then shredded into RDF, also known as "garbage fluff"

There, it will be heated in a low-oxygen atmosphere. This will cause its chemical bonds to break (without the material actually burning), releasing their carbon and hydrogen content to form what's known as syngas. This will in turn be cleaned up and converted into chemical products and biofuels – such as methanol and ethanol.

The Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility is scheduled to go online in the next several weeks. It is ultimately expected to convert 100,000 tonnes (110,231 tons) of municipal solid waste into 38 million liters (10 million gallons) of biofuels and chemicals annually.

You can see our video tour of the facility below, conducted by the Edmonton Waste Management Centre's Education Programs Co-ordinator, Garry Spotowski. There are also photos of the process in the gallery.

Gizmag tours Edmonton's Waste-to-Biofuels Facility

View gallery - 12 images
5 comments
Skipjack
And how much energy does that process take compared to the energy content of the biofuels?
Slowburn
If you are going to go the syngas route make ultra low sulfur clean diesel fuel. Alcohol is a disaster for the fuel system, can't be delivered by pipeline, and has low energy density; methanol is particularly bad is this regard and terribly toxic and just to round out its nastiness mixes with water rather than floating on top making it virtually impossible to clean up if spilled into water.
@ Skipjack That is a good question. Unlike corn ethanol more fuel will come out than went in, and it won't be increasing food costs.
BZD
Not sure I am that impressed by the numbers, but it is moving in the right direction. Waste is a resource.
Here in Denmark 61% of our waste is recycled, 29% is burned generating energy and/or heat, 7% becomes landfill and the rest is then treated in other ways (normally because it's harmful chemical and stuff). Those are 2011 numbers and we do slightly better now and some of our neighbors do even better.
cmed
the idea of converting trash to gas and ethanol itself is old, and several projects failed when tried in an industrial scale. If it works, it's a true gold mine, but up to now the mechanism did'nt work as expected due to the soot. Rewrite the article in 10 years if the facitiy is still running.
Darren Walker
http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/print/volume-11/issue-6/features/plasma-arc-the-leading-light.html
Submerged plasma arc is the way to go. www.Magnegas.com can be installed and replace sewage lagoons.
Ben, because you are close to the 3 coal fired generators near Edmonton, which spew mercury into the environment perhaps you could look into "HydroNanoGas" which could be added into the combustion process and eliminate all exhaust contaminants? http://www.hydroinfra.com/en/solutions/what-is-hng/
Just write a bit about www.HHOgames.com and all the suppliers of hydroxyl or Brown's Gas equipment for autos, especially diesels.