Public-private partnership to develop MSW pellet, biofuel project

By Erin Voegele | August 27, 2013

Washington County, Md., recently announced it is forming a public-private partnership with America First Inc. to launch a waste-to-renewable energy initiative. According to the county, the initiative will be implemented in two phases. During Phase I, a facility will be constructed to convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into refuse-derived fuel pellets. Phase II will include the construction of a gasification plant to process those pellets into range of fuels, including renewable gasoline and jet fuel.

According to Julie Pippel, Washington Country director for environmental management, construction on Phase 1 is currently expected to begin in 2014, after all permitting requirements have been met. Construction on Phase II would begin 18 months following Phase I.

Pippel explained that the facility developed under Phase I of the project will be material recovery facility that includes recycling, sorting, shredding and pelletizing operations. All non-recyclable components of the MSW will be processed into fuel pellets. She noted that final selection for equipment vendors are currently in negotiations. Pippel added that Washington County will provide the MSW it receives to the facility. Information released by the county also notes its existing landfill will eventually be mined to recover buried MSW.

According to Pippel, pellets produced at the facility will be sold into various markets, including industrial markets for use in boiler systems and kilns. When the second phase of the project is operational, the county said it expects approximately 10 percent of the pellets produced at the facility will feed into a Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel plant. The remaining pellets will continue to be sold into the market.

While Pippel said she is unable to share additional information on the proprietary gasification technology that will be deployed during Phase II of the project, she did note that the technology has not been deployed on the commercial scale, to date. “This is a cutting edge technology that Washington County is pleased to be a part of,” she said. “The goal is not only to make this project noteworthy in the State of Maryland, but also nationwide. The team includes a design firm, a biotechnology equipment company, patent holders and financiers behind the scenes.”

According to Pippel, the county’s involvement in this project is part of its continual efforts to search for more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly methods to manage MSW. “This process will have a positive impact on the local environment by reducing the MSW going into the landfill by 95 percent as well as reducing the odor, birds and noises normally associated with it,” she said. “All enclosed processes are environmentally safe with a net loss in emissions over traditional landfill operations.”