MaxWest receives $10 million investment

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted August 21, 2008 at 1:39 p.m. CST

MaxWest Environmental Systems Inc., a designer, builder and operator of waste-to-energy gasification systems, has received a $10 million private investment from Leaf Clean Energy Co.

"This investment in MaxWest further balances Leaf's portfolio with unique waste-to-energy technologies and capital project opportunities," said Leaf Clean Energy Chairman Peter Tom. The clean energy investment company has previously invested in cellulosic ethanol producer Range Fuels Inc., biodiesel process technology provider Greenline Industries and two solar energy companies.

MaxWest plans to use the investment to accelerate its business plan and for equity in several specific projects. "Leaf's commitment to MaxWest provides further confirmation of our gasification technology and its application in the biomass waste markets," said company president Richard Heien.

MaxWest's gasification systems are based on modular gasifiers that were originally used in British Columbia's forest products industry, according to Heien. The company has been in operation since 1997 and is responsible for designing, building and operating gasification systems that produce thermal energy. Heien said MaxWest's system is unique because it's versatile and flexible in feedstock usage. "You need to have consistency so you can't vary it every five minutes, but it's flexible enough to take a variety of ag wastes or biosolids," Heien said.

The company recently signed an agreement with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association to convert horse waste to energy at a MaxWest facility to be built in Marion County, Fla. MaxWest expects the facility to convert up to 100,000 tons of horse waste annually and produce 7.2 megawatts of energy daily to be sold to the power grid.

MaxWest also operates smaller gasification facilities in West Virginia and Canada and has several projects in the negotiation phase, Heien said, adding that the company target markets are municipalities. Earlier this year the company signed a 20-year contract with the city of Sanford, Fla., to convert the city's sludge to energy. Sludge, which consists of the contents in the last tank at a wastewater treatment facility, has historically been dewatered and used as fertilizer. However, Heien said the general public has become less receptive to that type of application, leaving municipalities with a dilemma. MaxWest estimates that Sanford will save $9 million in 20 years by using gasification to produce energy rather than natural gas.

MaxWest gasification systems can be built for any size facility, but are typically designed to handle 30 to 200 tons of sludge per day. Heien said a 200 ton per day facility can produce 1.5 MW of energy. Some of the energy produced is used to dry the feedstock, making the process a closed-loop system which has the potential to generate carbon credits. Additional energy can either be sold back to the customer or to the energy grid. Because MaxWest's model is to design, build and operate the facilities, Heien said the only cost to the customer is a disposal fee for the feedstock. He added that MaxWest works to ensure those costs are comparable with traditional methods of disposal.