Canadian company Enerkem has devised an innovative plan to transform garbage into a source of fuel, and today it received $60 million in new financing to bring its technology to the mainstream. The Montreal-based company currently makes ethanol from old utility poles and household garbage, and it just announced that it has joined forces with major independent oil refiner Valero and trash-hauling company Waste Management to turn garbage to into fuel for cars and trucks.
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Enerkem is starting up a plant near Sherbrooke, Quebec, that it says has the potential to produce 1.3 million gallons of fuel a year. Not just that, but it is also currently constructing another plant in Edmonton, Alberta, that could produce 10 million gallons each year.
To produce fuel from garbage, Enerkem first separates out recyclables, shreds them and then puts the material through a thermochemical process that pressures and heats the matter at 700 degrees Celsius, resulting in a gas of CO, CO2 and H2. Enerkem then removes any impurities (such as carbon dioxide) from the gas and mixes it with a catalyst, which converts it to methanol, which can be turned into ethanol to power cars. While the initial start-up may require natural gas or propane, once a plant is running any excess heat can be used to boil water to produce electricity.
For this writer, this sounds like a great idea and makes much more sense than growing crops to turn into fuel rather than using them to address the world’s food shortage.