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Teru Talk News

Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume IV, Issue 1, January 6, 2014 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "TerĂº")  

Teru's Trash Talk

"If it's wet, keep it wet. If it's dry, keep it dry." That was the sage advice handed out by the EPA's long-standing AgStar program a number of years ago, providing core guidance for selection of technologies to convert waste liabilities to assets. That simple quip has held true a large part of the time for selection of the core waste conversion systems and methods. The concept combines a whole lot of science-based common sense - but don't bet the farm on it. Too much has changed; too many new approaches are proving the old ways no longer hold water.

In the last decade the variety of available systems for waste conversion and the number of functional reference projects to surface globally have both increased dramatically. Industrial and governmental would-be project owners have gone from a paucity of possible solutions to an overwhelming overload of detailed systems and methods information. Nay-sayers can always point to the failures, and there have been far more losses than gains. Clear-cut choices are not easily achieved and every waste conversion pathways is fraught with hazards. Accurate information remains awfully hard to come by (except of course in Teru Talk).

Waste can be deconstructed to constituent parts in any number of ways, using thermal energy, microbial digestion, chemical decomposition and kinetic force either alone or in combination. We whack something with enough energy, it tends to come apart. How much value we get out of any particular waste conversion process compared to the cost of the energy we use to break the bonds and separate the components largely determines the overall economics of the process. If you have to dry feedstock slurry before conversion, you expend energy twice when compared to "keeping it wet." If you need to turn dry biomass into slurry before wet fermentation, well, it would stand to reason you've just paid for two steps when one "keep it dry" stage might have been more cost-effective.

OK, all right - it's not that simple and every rule was only concocted to be broken. If "wet to wet, dry to dry" always held true, we wouldn't be seeing such success in use of feedstock pre-treatment, or so many new pre-treatment approaches entering the marketplace. Integrated use of engine heat for "tump drying" has become standard practice; busting woody biomass into a wood-sugar soup means a far greater range of feedstock has now become available. Process efficiency increases are to be garnered wherever more energy out is generated than energy put into the works, and incremental improvements add up over time.

It's all a balancing act, and engineering science provides ways to assess both the mass and the energy balance. We know that myriad conversion machines run; now let's tend to the individual systems and process trains, seeking mass and energy balance efficiencies, and see if we can make it all more cost-effective.

Hey Rube!

One of the most cost-effective approaches we can incorporate is the recovery and use of waste heat. Reclaiming even just a little of the heat thrown off of an engine block can tip the balance from loss to profit on a project. Always, always "run the numbers" for the mass and energy balance as materials change through the course of processing, and seek out every tiny efficiency improvement. Once you are done, start again.

This Week's Top Story

US EPA Rules MaxWest's Sludge Gasification System is Not An Incinerator

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled that federal emissions guidelines and compliance rules for sewage sludge incinerators do not apply to a sludge gasifier developed by Florida based MaxWest Environmental Systems, Inc. 01/03/2014

The Week's News

USFS Releases 2013 Technical Report on 'Southern Forest Futures Project'

The US Forest Service’s (USFS) Southern Research Station has recently released its 2013-updated Technical Report and Summary Report on the Southern Forest Futures Project (SFFP). 01/05/2014

EPA Releases Proposed Rule for Residential Wood Heater Performance

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a detailed Pre-Publication Notice on January 3, 2014 on "Standards of Performance for New Residential Wood Heaters, New Residential Hydronic Heaters and Forced-Air Furnaces, and New Residential Masonry Heaters." 01/04/2014

IET Schedules Manchester Heat Debate on Low Carbon Heating Systems

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has scheduled the Manchester Heat Debate for January 29, 2014 in Manchester, United Kingdom, to obtain knowledge and opinion regarding the provision of low carbon heating systems from local stakeholders in the Energy and Built Environment sectors. 01/04/2014

Colorado Spring's Drake Coal Plant Starts Biomass Power Co-Firing Pilot

Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) began a biomass power pilot project at its Martin Drake Power Plant at the beginning of the year to determine the best co-firing blend of woody biomass and coal. 01/04/2014

MMPA's Hometown BioEnergy Facility in Minnesota Starts Operations

Construction and commissioning of the 8 MW Hometown BioEnergy in Le Sueur County, Minnesota, has been completed and the facility is now operational. 01/03/2014

APL Announces Major Version Upgrade to GEK Gasifier Core Technology

California based All Power Labs (APL) has announced the new v5.0 Gasifier Experimenter's Kit (GEK) Gasifier and related Power Pallet, representing a generational change in its core gasifier technology. 12/31/2013  

UNR Cooperative Extension Will Test Large-Scale Biochar Production and Use

University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Cooperative Extension and its partners have announced a large-scale three-year project to test biochar’s impact on soil productivity and water availability in Eureka County, Nevada. 12/30/2013

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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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The Teru Talk Newsletter is published weekly or more or less frequently, primarily depending on what is going on in the world of waste conversion or ours.