US Army invests $1.5 million to develop mobile pyrolysis system

By Anna Austin
Posted October 28, 2009, at 10:13 a.m. CST

International defense and security technology company QinetiQ has been awarded a $1.5 million contract from the U.S. Army to develop a portable version of a trash-to-energy system that can turn food, medical and sanitary waste, paper, plastic and any other waste that may be generated on an army base into electricity.

PyTEC is able to operate constantly by allowing for unsorted waste to be continually fed into the automated closed-loop system. The unit can process up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of municipal solid waste per hour, and also reclaims up to 500 kilowatts of the thermal energy from the waste per hour, a proportion of which will be used to power the system.

The system is housed in two interconnected intermodal containers fitted with a hinged opening side, and requires minimal training or involvement to operate About 25 liters (7 gallons) of char material is produced per 100 kilograms of raw waste processed, subject to the proportion of organic waste mix, according to QinetiQ.

The program is funded by the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense through the Foreign Comparative Testing Program and could result in the Army acquiring more than 10 systems eventually. Completion is expected in mid-2010, followed by extensive testing and evaluation by the Army until early 2012. Douglas Millard, QinetiQ communications manager, said the Army will be testing the PyTEC systems in the U.S.

Though the pyrolysis concept is not new, QinetiQ's system is unique in that it's scaled to be transportable, installed onboard ships or integrated into privately operated sites, Millard said. The technology has been under development by the Farnborough, England-based company for the past few years, he said.

The system was designed to reduce the need for outside contractors to have access to Army base camps to dispose of waste, while producing energy to reduce fuel needs.