Turning Trash into Energy

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mike Hart, President and CEO of Sierra Energy, will talk about their FastOx Pathfinder, a machine that turns common trash into useable energy. While still in its infant stages of development, this waste-to-energy system was recently bought by the U.S. Department of Defense in the hopes of reducing oil consumption. He’ll also discuss the ongoing national hunt to make alternative fuels like Ethanol from trash in an environmentally and economically sound way.


Mike Hart

Comments [7]

Jack Adamo from NJ

This interview left some important questions unanswered. Number one. How much energy does it take to produce what amount of energy output? Number two. The technology is based on the blast furnace principle, but blast furnaces use coking coal to produce the extreme heat necessary for the process. Will this produce more pollution than it saves? Number three. I wonder about Mr. Hart's statement that "one ton of garbage produces the equivalent of more than one ton of CO2." I don't know how he's using the word "equivalent" in this context, but burning a ton of anything to produce more than a ton of anything else sounds like alchemy to me.
I'd love to hear a follow-up interview to answer these questions.

Aug. 30 2013 10:23 AM
EricR from White Plains, NY

Gasification is not new, and I have researched it extensively. I believe it to be a fantastic technology. The problem is that I am not yet sure how economically viable it is. The technology has a very expensive upfront cost, depending upon how big the system is (i.e. how many tons per day it can process). Even though I believe a viable business model can be developed (you can charge a "tipping fee" for accepting municipal solid waste on the front end, as well as selling the products (energy, hydrogen, and/or synthetic diesel) on the back end, it is very cost prohibitive to deploy. Port St. Lucie in Florida recently cancelled what would have been the largest plasma gasification project in the world.

My concern for Sierra Energy and its business model as a technology licensor is that it looks like history is repeating itself. One of the pioneers in plasma gasification was a company called Startech Environmental Corp. They had an excellent technology that could gasify pretty much anything without needing to sort the waste, as it could run far hotter than competing gasifiers (although sorting the waste is better for maximizing the efficiencies of the system). However, they wanted to sell their product rather than be involved project development. Unfortunately, they were not able to remain viable. I think that a company like Sierra Energy will need to partner with project developers in order to build out this industry and prove its viability. I wish them success, because burying waste is simply not sustainable in the long run. I keep thinking of the movie Wall-E :)

Aug. 29 2013 06:30 PM


Aug. 29 2013 01:46 PM
mick from Inwood

Several years ago I read in Scientific American about a process where a very large electrical arc is used to gassify landfill waste in situ. The system vaporizes the waste at over 6000 degrees F., burns some of the gas to produce it electricity and compresses the rest for sale. Metals are melted, low out and are recovered. I have yet to hear that this kind of system has been implemented. What is preventing implementation of innovative waste disposal ideas?

Aug. 29 2013 01:45 PM
Keira from manhattan

This sounds great. In fact it sounds so great I'm somewhat skeptical. Can you focus a little bit more on what comes out the bottom--the metal.

Aug. 29 2013 01:38 PM
Shashinyc from Manhattan

What will Waste Management, Inc. and the other waste czars which rule the hauling and landfill money machines have to say about this cool green technology? How about the oil and gas industries? The U.S. is so far behind the global curve in employing smart waste-to-energy technologies that the likelihood of this kind of business gaining a wide foothold within the forseeable future is small. Too many special interests.

Look at New York City where Mayor Bloomberg's "innovative" 20-year SWMP is basically rooted in the old Giuliani plan that relies on exporting our garbage and dumping it into landfills. But keep on truckin'(LOL) ...America and New york WILL catch up. We'll be forced to!

Aug. 29 2013 01:36 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Does the energy used to separate out the oxygen from air & to power the blast furnace the same energy produced by this process, making it a closed system? If not, what is its source & how environmentally sustainable is it?

Aug. 29 2013 01:36 PM

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