R&A Solutions pyrolysis system turns trash to gas

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 11:25 a.m. CST

From carpet scrap to sewage sludge, manure, wood waste, auto shredder residue, and sorted municipal solid waste, Ohio-based R&A Energy Solutions LLC says it has a solution to turn such liabilities into assets.

According to R&A Chief Executive Officer Joel Keller, the company has integrated a commercial-sized, proprietary pyrolysis system with a modified international combustion engine and generator set system to produce a syngas high in British thermal unit content, significant amounts of pyro-oils and pyro-char, as well as hot water, space heating/chilling, and steam from the waste heat.

The feedstock material used may need to be partially dried or mixed with dryer materials, such as crop waste, yard waste, or forest residues, Keller said. It's fed into the pyrolysis unit to be heated in a zero or near zero oxygen environment. "The organic components rapidly vaporize to form a dry synthetic gas consisting mainly of methane, ethane, propane and butane, which is then used as fuel to run an internal combustion engine and generator set or a boiler to make steam," Keller said. "Waste heat is recycled to augment the energy from the syngas in the production of power or to dry additional fuel. The process is 85 percent to 90 percent efficient, with ultra-low emissions."

Keller said depending on the waste feedstock, a variety of organic liquids may be produced by pyrolysis. "Many of these liquids may be used directly as transportation fuels," he said. "The resulting sterile ash may be used as filler for concrete, mixed with liquid asphalt for road repair, used for certain industrial or manufacturing operations, or applied to farm fields depending on exact content, local needs and regulations."

The systems are modular and scalable, facilitating maintenance and future expansion, according to Keller. He said that R&A Energy Solutions is currently developing a project in Niles, Ohio, which will potentially transform sewage treatment plant sludge and municipal solid waste, among other waste materials into an estimated two to six megawatts of electricity, enough to power 500 to 1,500 homes.

Keller said R&A Energy Solutions has a 10-year purchase power agreement with power company American Municipal Power-Ohio. The next step is to complete a project/feedstock assessment, followed by multiple other negotiations and engineering tasks. He added that R&A Energy Solutions has three projects in financing stages and will add another five or six projects within six months.