Vista pilot waste-to-energy project nears completion

By Katie Fletcher | January 19, 2015

Vista International Technologies recently announced that its pilot waste-to-energy (WTE) project is nearly complete. The company’s patented thermal gasifier technology uses a low-temperature gasification process that produces syngas with an inert ash byproduct from a wide variety of fuels, including municipal solid waste (MSW) and biomass.

Vista is currently finishing construction on the project’s main gasification unit. “The other major project components are all on site, so we will basically be moving the components into place, then completing the piping, electrical and water connections necessary to startup the project,” said Tim Ruddy, Vista CEO.

The company expects to finish this construction in a little over a month, and ship the gasification unit to the project site by the end of February. Final project installation is expected to take three to four weeks, putting the project on track to begin initial operation for testing purposes by the end of March.

The pilot project will convert various waste streams to thermal energy by generating steam in a 400 boiler horsepower (BHP) boiler. “It has been our experience that uniformity or homogeneity of the given feedstock is a significant issue, which can lead to incomplete gasification reactions and reduced output,” Ruddy said. “Our system, the thermal gasifier, allows for the gasification reaction to be varied to cater to the needs of a batch of feedstock.”

Ruddy said that the system also allows for changes in feedstock with no alteration to the gasification system, allowing the company to process the most economically advantageous fuel at any time, and change fuels at will.

The amount of waste the facility will intake varies by the energy content of the feedstock. “Since our system operates on an energy-flow basis, the tonnage of fuel that the project will utilize depends on the energy content of the fuel,” Ruddy said. “That being said, for an energy-dense fuel, such as waste tires, the system will process roughly 8 to 10 tons per day. For a fuel with a lower-energy density, such as biomass, the system will process between 20 to 25 tons per day.”

If proven successful, looking at a lower-energy content biomass like MSW, a typical large, commercial installation would process 800 to 1,000 tons per day of waste feedstock and produce 20 MW of power, according to Ruddy. “The systems are scalable in increments of 5 MW, so capacities of 25, 30 or 40 MW are easily achievable,” Ruddy said.

Currently the location of the pilot project is confidential, but the company chose the Northeastern U.S. because it is one of its target markets; an area with high waste disposal costs and high costs of electricity. “With installations across three continents over a period of 25 years, we have seen it all, and can produce a system to process virtually any hydrocarbon-based waste stream,” Ruddy said.