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Conversion of Waste to Fuel and Energy

Working to shift industry and consumer habits is difficult, but the SET team has developed two patent-pending technologies which aim to recover valuable hydrocarbons from municipal solid waste (MSW) utilizing a thermal conversion process. The product is intended as a fuel source, or other form of energy, with the intent of reducing the environmental burden of so much unrestricted waste generation.

What are the conventional methods of waste disposal?

  • Landfilling—a solution for communities that have vast amounts of undeveloped land; however, they often are imperfect and may not fully contain waste.
  • Recycling—relies largely on consumers, and has proven inefficient and expensive. Recycled materials must be sorted into simplified groups (paper, plastic, metals), and the groups may even further require additional sorting into polymer type or alloy. Composting is often included in the recycling category.
  • Combustion with energy recovery—selected waste is combusted to generate steam to power turbine generators. This method gained a reputation for being environmentally unfriendly in the 1980’s as a result of large amounts of emitted carbon dioxide. Despite improvements in carbon capture, the process produces a large amount of ash which is then disposed of in a landfill.

Why has an alternative method not yet been commercially instituted?

  • Landfilling is easy for consumers; throw it out and forget about it.
  • Single-use packaging is sanitary and convenient for consumers, but has contributed to a significant increase in the quantity of discarded waste.
  • For manufacturers, virgin plastic polymers are economical to produce.
  • Recycling plastic is complicated due to the number of additives present in final plastic products, which contribute to a low-quality, undesirable recycled product.
  • Waste material is considered a negative value product and the transportation/processing costs of the waste can be high, so often the economics are unfavorable when processing waste alone.

The patent-pending SET approach: What if waste could be co-processed with an oil medium to produce a fuel source, or other form of energy?

  • The SET approach is intended to reduce, or eliminate the requirement of manually sorting selected wastes.
  • The selected waste, which may be either sorted or unsorted, is combined with a selected oil medium, which is then co-processed under pyrolytic conditions.
  • Organic materials containing lignocellulose, such as yard trimmings, food waste, or paper may be diverted to biomass.
  • Plastics could be depolymerized and restored back to fundamental monomers and reused, or combined into a value-added hydrocarbon product.
  • Solids recovered from the process may be composed of soil, char (coke), inert, or unreacted inorganic materials, and will not impact product quality.

To discuss project-specific catalytic studies, please inquire.

For more information, contact:

LeAnne V. Hazard / Bio
Technology Development Manager
Sustainable Emerging Technologies
(307) 721-2460
lhazard@uwyo.edu