Pellet project on hold in West, possible on East Coast

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy
GEI Waste Systems may soon receive carbon credits for pelletizing municipal solid waste (MSW), but it won't be in the West.

The subsidiary of GEI Development LLC had been in negotiations with the city of Cheyenne, Wyo., to install a VR-95 Extruder, which would have processed the city's MSW into fuel pellets that could then be sold as a coal replacement to an industrial end user. However, the city shelved the proposed project earlier this year.

GEI has directed its focus to the East Coast, according to company President Larry Giroux. He said his company is in the negotiation stages of pelletizing projects in Virginia, Boston and Toronto. The project in Virginia would pelletize wood from construction and demolition waste, the project in Toronto would use MSW, and a combination of the two wastes would be used in Boston. Giroux said he hopes to get each of these projects on line in approximately six months, a relatively short development time line because the locations have existing infrastructure or a short permitting process.

This time line is in contrast to the projected time line in Cheyenne, which was more than two years. "Before any money was spent, we had to secure a contract to sell the pellets to show the city that we had revenue, which could take several months," Giroux explained. "Then, the city had to go through its procurement process to build a $2.5 million building for us, which it could lease back to us. Procurement and permitting would take over a year."

With a landfill that has less than four years of space left, the city decided it couldn't wait for the project to be developed. After a change in management at the city's public works department, the city put the negotiations on hold and instead elected to focus on short-term solutions. "We think [GEI's proposed project] would have been useful," said Vicki Nemecek, assistant public works director in Cheyenne. "However, we have immediate needs. We can't wait two to four years. We chose to do something now."

Giroux conceded that Cheyenne isn't a target market for his company-at least not for an initial project. "We stumbled into Cheyenne because it had a need and it was excited about it," he said. However, Cheyenne has cheap coal and low tipping fees of approximately $25 to process approximately 200 tons per day. Giroux said Boston pays $80 to $100 in tipping fees. He explained that the East Coast-with expensive coal, environmental restrictions and high tipping fees-offers a better market.