Miss. State licenses MSW conversion tech to Harrelson & Assoc.

By Bryan Sims | July 18, 2011

A novel waste conversion technology developed at Mississippi State University’s Sustainable Energy Research Center is moving out of the lab and into the marketplace thanks to a licensing agreement between Shreveport, La.-based Harrelson & Associates LLC and MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.

According to SERC director Glenn Steele, the patent-pending process is a one-step catalytic (not Fischer-Tropsch) process that’s capable of converting waste, such as MSW, and syngas into liquid hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals. The technology evolved from collaborative research by MSU’s SERC and the land-grant institution’s chemical engineering department to find ways to recover fuel sources from MSW facilities.

Co-inventors Shetian Liu, a post-doctoral associate, and Mark White, professor emeritus in the Dave C. Swalm School of Engineering, developed the catalyst and process with funding from the U.S. DOE to build a sustainable technology for converting waste to energy.

“We can tweak the catalyst to have it heavier in gasoline or less in diesel jet fuel and vice versa,” Steele told Biorefining Magazine. “It’s a scalable type of catalyst so we can design our product based on the catalyst used.”

In the initial phase of development, Harrelson & Associates plans to build a gasifier of its own and integrate it with the newly acquired technology it licensed from SERC near a landfill operation in Marks, Miss., according to Steele.

Steele said the syngas-to-liquid hydrocarbon technology licensed to Harrelson & Associates is one of three different processes SERC is developing at its labs in Starkville, Miss. One is focused on utilizing a pyrolysis process to convert biomass into bio-oil and upgrade the oil to liquid hydrocarbons, a process that has since been licensed to Piedmont BioProducts, but Steele said, “That is really just a byproduct of the research. We’re really focusing more on the upgrading of the oils and the potential replacement fuel product, and those are seeing a lot of interest from various companies at this point.”

The third process being developed is focused on the production of bio-crude where researchers put microbes on municipal sanitary waste, such as industrial/municipal wastewater, to increase triglyceride—or lipid—where it can be extracted and converted into biodiesel or refined into green gasoline or diesel. The SERC is partnering with General Atomics and the U.S. EPA’s Research Center in Cincinnati on the project. “That’s seeing a lot of interest as well, especially from industry and potentially from the military,” Steele said.