Research Converts Tomato Paste to Energy

© Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have developed a way to convert tomato waste in electricity. Led by Venkataramana Gadhamshetty, Ph.D., he and his team used a biological-based fuel cell that uses tomato waste left over from harvests in Florida. The characteristics of the decomposing waste make it a “perfect fuel source” for enhancing electrochemical reactions, Gadhamshetty said.

Food waste comes in many forms including the leftovers of manufacturing processes of sauces, ketchup and other cooking products. He began the research several years ago as a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. He says the project is important to Florida, where tomatoes are a key crop, because the state generates 396,000 tons of tomato waste every year but lacks a good treatment process. Gadhamshetty said a lot of this waste is ripe with chemical energy and he and his team wanted to see if this could be used as a source of electrons. The answer: yes.

The team tested the defective tomatoes in a new electrochemical device built at the South Dakota Mines campus, which degrades tomato waste and then extracts electrons. The power output from their mini reactor is small: 10 milligrams of tomato waste can result in 0.3 watts of electricity. But the researchers note that with an expected scale up and more research, electrical output could be increased by several orders of magnitude.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.11.17 AM“It might be possible to one day put this device at the bottom of my kitchen sink” to convert waste into household electricity, Gadhamshetty said who added that this alternative fuel source is inexpensive technology because operations can be conducted at room temperature requiring no major investment of materials.

Gadhamshetty and SD Mines graduate student Namita Shrestha are collaborating on the project with Alex Fogg, an undergraduate chemistry major at Princeton University. Other project collaborators include Daniel Franco, Joseph Wilder and Simeon Komisar, Ph.D., at Florida Gulf Coast University.

“I’m really excited about this research. I come from a small country, Nepal, and we have power cut off as much as 20 hours in a day, so this could really help developing countries,” Shrestha said. “We cannot afford expensive technologies like waste treatment.” According to Shrestha’s calculations, there is theoretically enough tomato waste generated in Florida each year to meet Disney World’s electricity demand for 90 days, using an optimized biological fuel cell.

HCATT Sponsors Waste-to-Energy Demo

A waste-to-energy demonstration has kicked off on the campus of the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG). Sponsored by the High Technology Development Corporation’s (HTDC) Hawaii Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies (HCATT) the $6.8 million project showcases the efficacy of converting 10 tons of waste per day to electricity to generate a net 200 to 300 kW of baseload power using four generators run from the syngas produced by a gasifier. The demonstration will continue through this summer, and was facilitated through a contract with Biomass Energy Systems, Inc. (BESI).

“The system itself is clean, highly reliable and rugged,” said Renee Comly, president and CEO of BESI. “We are most pleased to demonstrate how a waste to energy generating system like the installation at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam provides a range of real world advantages and benefits, and how it can play a vital role as we transition towards a world powered by clean energy.”

gI_150400_IMG_0498The Air Force Research Labs (AFRL) selected the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing to demonstrate an integrated micro-grid concept that tests the viability of using renewable energy and micro-grids to assure that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) can continue mission critical operations regardless of the state of the public utility grid or cyber-attack. Phase I of the micro-grid will utilize a rotary kiln gasifier that turns waste into fuel, heat and electricity.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, who was instrumental in supporting the USAF selection of Hawaii, officiated the demonstration ceremony. “Alternative energy research and development is one of the smartest investments that the military is making today and one that is projected to save lives,” said Schatz. “Hawaii is on the leading edge as a testbed for a variety of renewable energy systems and micro-grid technology that will benefit the entire state.”

JBPHH was selected based on Hawaii’s variety of renewable energy sources, the high cost of electricity, and complexity of the Hawaii Air Guard’s 154th Wing, which operates the F-22, the most advanced fighter in the U.S. inventory. Continue reading

USDA Scientists Develop Bio-Oil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working on creating better crude liquid from renewable resources to replace fossil-based fuel. Coined “bio-oil,” the renewable fuel is derived from agricultural waste such as non-food-grade plant matter procured from agricultural or household waste residue such as wood, switchgrass, and animal manures. The advanced biofuel is now a few steps closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

TGRP mobile Unit

ARS scientists are testing this mobile pyrolysis system for on-farm production of bio-oil from agricultural waste.

The research team, headed by Agricultural Research Services (ARS) chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng with the Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, is working on a modified pyrolysis technique called “tail-gas reactive pyrolysis” (TGRP). Traditionally, pyrolysis is process that chemically decomposes plant and other organic matter using very high heat. This process is not compatible with current distillation equipment at petroleum biofineries due to its highly acidic and high oxygen content, and requires the addition of an expensive catalyst.

Now, however, using waste materials, bio-oils are being produced at an accelerated rate using a new high-output mobile processing unit funded by a Biomass Research and Development Initiative Grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  Instead of shipping large amounts of agricultural waste to a refinery plant at high cost, the mobile reactor allows conversion of the biomass into energy-dense bio-oil right on the farm. In addition, this bio-oil is a higher quality bio-oil that is more marketable to biofuel producers than bio-oil made from traditional pyrolysis methods.

“Ideally, the biofuels added to gasoline would be identical to fuels produced at petroleum refineries,” Eklasabi told AgResearch Magazine. “The quality of TGRP deoxygenated liquids is equal to or better than the bio-oil produced by catalyst pyrolysis.” And, added Eklasabi, bringing the bio-oil one step closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

Waste Fat Biodiesel to Power London Buses

londonbus1About one-third of London’s buses will soon be running on biodiesel made from animal fat waste. This article from the Guardian says two bus operators, Stagecoach and Metroline, will get the green fuel from Argent Energy at a 20 percent biodiesel (B20) blend.

By March next year, almost 3,000 of the capital’s 8,900 buses will be powered by the B20 fuel blend.

It is estimated that buses running on waste-based B20 produce 10 per cent less carbon emissions than a bus using ordinary diesel.

Transport for London (TfL) said it is resulting in a huge reduction in CO2 emissions of 21,000 tonnes each year.

Mike Weston, TfL’s Director of Buses, said: “Our bus fleet is now making a major contribution to improving air quality and bringing down CO2 emissions.

“This improvement, which will reduce CO2 emissions by 21,000 tonnes each year, is being introduced now with no extra spend needed and no long delay for the fitting of new kit.

“It’s just one of a number of measures we are taking to make London’s environment better for everyone.”

POM Wonderful Extends Partnership w/Greenbelt

POM Wonderful, the largest grower and producer of fresh pomegranates and pomegranate juice in the U.S., has extended its feedstock testing contract with Greenbelt Resources Corporation. Earlier this year, Greenbelt announced its confidential testing program, and the company has now released the news that POM Wonderful was one of its first clients.

© Olhaafanasieva | Dreamstime.com - Ripe Pomegranates On A Rustic Table

© Olhaafanasieva | Dreamstime.com – Ripe Pomegranates On A Rustic Table

Using Greenbelt’s technology, the initial tests have successfully demonstrated the viability of two feedstocks to be converted into fuel, filtered water, and other valuable co-products, according to Greenbelt CEO Darren Eng.  Pomegranate husk waste from POM Wonderful juicing operations is one of these viable feedstocks.

“Based on preliminary testing results, our calculations predict a likely ten-fold to possibly more than twenty-fold increase in per-ton-value of POM’s pomegranate husks through the integration of a Greenbelt system,” said Floyd Butterfield, CTO of Greenbelt Resources. “Our Solution has the potential benefit of being both sustainable and revenue generating.”

POM Wonderful recently commenced the next level of Greenbelt Resources feedstock testing service: Commercial-Scale Feedstock Testing (CSFT). CSFT entails running several truckload-sized batches to test multiple variables and their myriad impacts on process efficiency. The purpose of CSFT, says Butterfield, is to obtain data necessary for designing a specific system for a specific scenario in a specific location. The goal is to generate data from which an efficient system can be designed and its cost estimated.

Eng added, “POM Wonderful is a world class operation and a market leader with an ideal waste stream for use as a feedstock. Their commitment to the testing process and basing decisions on sound science, allows us to explore system tweaks designed to maximize value.”

EcoPAS Ethanol PAS-100 Exceeds Expectations

The California wine industry is seeing growing concern of ethanol vapor released into the atmosphere from large fermentation tanks, an issue that can lead to the formation of smog. Fermentation is a necessary step in the production of wine; therefore to address the concern, EcoPAS invented the Passive Alcohol System (PAS-100) that captures the alcohol vapor that escapes from wine tank vents during fermentation.

EcoPAS-100To test the technology, EcoPAS partnered with Greenbelt Resources Corporation who fabricated the first commercial scale PAS-100 and its complementary manifold system. The system was installed in a southern Californian wine services facility and used for the first time during the recently completed 2015 crush. The company has announced the fabricated system has exceeded performance expectations.

“Leveraging the manufacturing expertise of the Greenbelt team enables our own team to focus on continued performance improvements,” said Patrick Thompson, CEO of EcoPAS. “Now that the full-scale PAS system has been achieved in practice, we expect to see an increase in demand for Greenbelt fabrication of additional PAS systems.”

According to EcoPAS, both its own engineers as well as winemakers, of whom are EcoPAS target customers and end users, were pleased with all aspects of the operation. Utilizing the PAS-100 manufactured by Greenbelt Resources for EcoPAS, the winery was able to claim credit for enough captured volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to stay below mandated daily emissions rates. Thus, says EcoPAS, deployment of the PAS is not only good for the environment, it’s good business.

Darren Eng, CEO of Greenbelt Resources added, “The PAS is an impressive invention requiring no active energy input. “We look forward to growing our two complimentary companies side-by-side. Once the market adoption of the PAS hits a critical mass, the aggregated by-product of local PAS’s will be an excellent feedstock for the typical modular distillation-and-dehydration systems for which Greenbelt Resources is known.”

PHG Energy Kicks of Waste-to-Energy Project

Construction of a new gasification plant at Lebanon, Tennessee’s waste water treatment facility is underway following a groundbreaking ceremony held last week. Tens of thousands of tons of sewer sludge, used tires and industrial wood waste will be processed to produce electricity to help power the plant.  PHG Energy of Nashville is designing and building the new facility, which will include utilization of the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit with a full capacity of 64 tons per day through the system.

Lebanon Groundbreaking 11-12-15 smaller size

From left to Right: Chris Koczaja (vice president of implementation and engineering at PHG Energy); Tom Doherty (environmental specialist with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead; Lebanon Councilman Fred Burton, Ward 2; Lebanon Councilman Rob Cesternino, Ward 3, and Jeff Baines (public works commissioner for the city of Lebanon)

“This facility is going to be a model for waste-to-energy partnerships,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said of the project, “as well as the first stage in moving our city completely away from dumping waste into landfills.”

Gasification is a clean thermo-chemical process that breaks down biomass-based material in a high-heat and low-oxygen environment. According to a PHG Energy press release, there is no incineration or burning involved in the process. The only residue after production of synthetic fuel gas is a carbon biochar that has multiple agricultural, industrial and direct fuel uses.

Tom Doherty, Environmental Specialist with the Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said the new facility is an important step forward in efforts Tennessee and his department are fostering across the state. “When we look at the thousands of tons of wood waste and sludge this plant will cleanly process, that is a tremendous step forward. One of the most exciting parts of deploying this technology in Lebanon is that hundreds or tons of scrap tires will be put to beneficial use while saving Wilson County a considerable portion of their previous disposal expense.”

TDEC has awarded the project funding of $250,000 through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, and facilitated a subsidy of 70% of the $3.5 million financing’s interest cost through the Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds program.

Hometown BioEnergy Wins Biogas Project Award

The American Biogas Council has awarded the Hometown BioEnergy facility with its “Biogas Project of the Year” award. The LeSeur, MN plant is owned by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, with management partner Avant Energy, and utilizes anaerobic digestion to produce renewable electricity from food processing and agricultural waste. Once the methane gas is produced, also known as renewable natural gas, it is used locally and saved for use during high demand times.

MMPA_Hometown_BioEnergyAccording to Steve Schmidt, MMPA chairman, “We’re very proud of this award because it recognizes the innovation built into Hometown BioEnergy, where we produce methane and store it, ready to burn in our generators during on-peak hours when the value of the energy is highest. This biogas facility, because of its ability to store biogas until it’s needed, is an excellent complement to renewable power generated from wind or solar.”

This is not the first award for the facility. Hometown BioEnergy was also recognized by POWER Magzine as a 2014 Top Renewable Plant and was featured on their December cover.

Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council said in a news release announcing the award, “The quality of innovation in the biogas industry is at a fever pitch today.”

DC Water Turns Poop to Electricity

DC Water has unveiled it’s $470 million Blue Plains waste-to-energy project that converts biosolids waste to electricity. The facilities include a dewatering building, 32 thermal hydrolysis vessels, four concrete 80 foot high anaerobic digesters that each hold 3.8 million gallons of solids, and three jet engine-sized turbines.

CAMBI thermal hydrolysis vessels in foreground, anaerobic digesters in the background. Photo Credit: DC Water

CAMBI thermal hydrolysis vessels in foreground, anaerobic digesters in the background. Photo Credit: DC Water

The company said the project was viable through CAMBI thermal hydrolysis process, the first time the technology has been used in the U.S. DC Water also says with the process now in operation, the Blue Plains facility is the largest of its kind in the world.

DC Water CEO and General Manager George S. Hawkins, said of the facility, “This project embodies a shift from treating used water as waste to leveraging it as a resource. We are proud to be the first to bring this innovation to North America for the benefit of our ratepayers, the industry and the environment.”

Thermal hydrolysis uses high heat and pressure to “pressure cook” the solids left over at the end of the wastewater treatment process. This weakens the solids cell walls and the structure between cells to make the energy easily accessible to the organisms in the next stage of the process–anaerobic digestion. The methane these organisms produce is captured and fed to three large turbines to produce electricity. Steam is also captured and directed back into the process. Next, the solids at the end of the process are a cleaner Class A biosolids product that DC Water uses as a compost-like material. Biosolids products are currently being used around the District for urban gardens and green infrastructure projects. DC Water also plans bring a compost-like product to market.

“This is yet another example of the District leading the nation in the adoption and implementation of sustainable practices,” added District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser. “DC Waters Blue Plains facility is converting waste to clean water and a nutrient-rich soil byproduct, producing energy and helping to put the District on the path towards a zero waste future.”

The company did more than a decade of research prior to bringing the new facilities into operation. The project received the 2012 Grand Prize in Planning Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists, the 2012 Global Honour Award in Planning from the International Water Association, as well as one of two WERF Excellence in Innovation Awards, first presented at WEFTEC 2011.

ConEdison Assists “Renewable” Waste Treatment

The Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Staten Island has been updated to include “renewable” energy to help power the waste treatment facility. Three new boilers – a combination of biogas and natural gas – along with a new exhaust system and a rootfop solar array. Biogas is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process and is now being captured and used to replace equipment from the 1970s that ran on heating oil. The solar array, installed by ConEdison Solutions, is expected to produce 1.6 million kilowatt hours, approximately 10 percent of the plant’s power needs. The project is part of OneNYC’s initiative to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

21218149303_ee1802d0ae_z“This $30 million investment in new technology at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant will significantly reduce pollution and result in cleaner air for New York City,” said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “Our wastewater treatment plants require a tremendous amount of electricity in order to protect public health and the environment, and we’re focused on not only reducing their demand for electricity, but also capturing and maximizing their potential for energy production.”

In September 2014, New York City committed to the goal of achieving an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050 (80×50). With buildings comprising nearly three-quarters of New York City’s overall emissions, the City has implemented an initiative to retrofit all public buildings with any significant energy use by 2025, and supporting many private buildings to do the same. In addition, in order to reduce emissions from City government operations, an program was put in place to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

“ConEdison Solutions is proud to help the New York City Department of Environmental Protection promote sustainability through this ambitious solar installation,” added Michael N. Perna of ConEdison Solutions. “Throughout New York City, both public-sector and private-sector entities are learning how to utilize renewable power as a money-saving and energy-saving asset. With these significant improvements at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant, DEP is setting an outstanding example for other facilities throughout the region.”