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Teru Talk News

Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume IV, Issue 3, January 20, 2014 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "Terú")  

Teru's Trash Talk

Just what is a "commercial" enterprise? How can we tell if a waste conversion technology is "ready" for our community's use? As people around the globe consider investing in systems to turn crud back into marketable goods, one of the first questions we hear is, "Is there a commercial example?"

Way back in the 1970s the federal government needed to find a way to measure this metric of readiness in order to reduce risk for minor projects like space missions. The concept of technology readiness emerged: "Technology Readiness Levels" or TRL remain an important tool for all our military research departments. Yet the feds didn't ask if there was a commercial application. Instead, an entire technology readiness assessment protocol was established to carefully measure if the bugs have been worked out, and just how close the widget was technologically to being ready for the Big Show.

A machine is only as good as the combination of its design AND its operation; any system can be run clean or dirty, and that certainly applies to systems built to recover resources from wastes and residuals. The TRL metrics assess the function and assign one of nine developmental stages to mark the status of that function at any one time. Technical development is after all a process, a progression from TRL 1, that gleam in Daddy's eye to TRL 9, when the technology is ready to step out of the Lab and enter the World.

Fine: it works - but how do we run the thing? Any one tool can have multiple applications, and there will always be the need to write an Operations and Maintenance manual detailing the best way to apply that system to Real World challenges. OK, great: now we have a technology that works, and a way to make it dance. Does this mean it is now Commercial? Hardly.

The federal government may be able to absorb the risk associated with deploying a particularly promising new tool for the first time. That doesn't apply to decisions made by a private developer or a municipality, who after all are working with Real Money. So in addition to knowing the thing works and there's a clean way to run it, the question of economic viability must enter in. Does this Conversion Technology cost more to buy and operate than we can recover within a reasonable length of time? Is there anywhere we can go and see one of these expensive systems work? How much economic risk is involved in owning and operating the technology? Everybody's always ready to invest in the second commercial installation …

Perhaps we need to establish a baseline to measure against. First, determine the real value of not throwing our resources away, compared to the actual cost of trashing our planet. Then count the costs and benefits of running the solution. With that in mind: if TRLs effectively measure progression to exit from the Lab, maybe now we need to develop a suite of psychometrics defining Commercial Readiness Levels (CRLs).

Hey Rube!

We all chatter about some of the clear stages that Technology Developers must get through to see their baby succeed in the world, for their company to find its commercial niche. Did they make it through that Valley of Death? That's the onerous phase between using up all their own resources and finding some sucker, er, investor, to inject the life blood of commercialization: More Money. Good: the company has five projects running; Bad: now they simply have no time to market and thus can't generate any new funds to hire more smart staff. What other stages can we define? If you think you recognize increments, let Teru Talk know and we'll see if we can rough out CRLs.

This Week's Top Story

Vadxx Energy Receives Financing for 1st Plastic Waste to Energy Facility

Ohio based Vadxx Energy LLC has closed on financing for its first commercial-scale, plastic waste-to-energy facility. Private equity firm Liberation Capital has agreed to fund the first unit, which will be implemented in Akron, Ohio and is scheduled to come online in early 2015. 01/15/2014

The Week's News

Green Day Technologies Receives $10-20MM Order for Refuse/Biomass Pellets

Florida based Kleangas Energy Technologies, Inc has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Green Day Technologies, Inc, has received an order worth $10,000,000 up to $20,000,000 for pellets. 01/17/2014

European Commission Approves Neste Oil's Sustainability Verification System

Neste Oil has announced that its sustainability verification system for all diesel fuel produced from renewable feedstocks has been approved by the European Commission (EC). 01/17/2014

American Chemistry Council Forms New Plastics-to-Oil Technologies Alliance

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has announced that a new group has formed within its Plastics Division to support technologies that convert non-recycled plastics into petroleum based products. 01/16/2014

Cambrian Installs 1st Commercial EcoVolt System at Bear Republic Brewing

Boston based Cambrian Innovation, Inc has announced that the first commercial installation of its EcoVolt wastewater system at Bear Republic Brewing Factory in Cloverdale, California will begin commissioning next month. 01/16/2014

Aphios Granted US Patent for Pretreatment of Cellulosic Biomass for Biofuels

Massachusetts based Aphios Corporation has announced that it has been granted US patent 8,540,847, “Methods and Apparatus for Processing Cellulose Biomass,” for its Aosic enabling technology platform for Cellulosic Biomass Pretreatment (CBP). 01/14/2014

New York State Makes $21MM Available to Dairy Farmers for Waste to Energy

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that nearly $21 million will be available to create new economic opportunities for New York’s dairy farmers by helping them to produce renewable energy and improve their business operations. 01/14/2014

European Biofuels Technology Platform Seeks Input for Funding Decisions

The European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBTP) program has launched the Advanced Biofuels Stakeholder Questionnaire 2014, an on-line 10 minute survey intended to help direct biofuels research and development funding through 2016 for the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). 01/13/2014

NCF Completes Stage 1 Proof of Concept to Convert CO2 to Fuels

Israel based New CO2 Fuels (NCF) has announced successful completion of Stage 1 Proof of Concept testing for high-temperature dissociation of carbon dioxide (CO2; as contained in industrial emissions) into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen. 01/13/2014

The Week's Action Items

Due 03/11/2014: Grant Applications to CEC for Biofuel Production Facilities

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has issued Program Opportunity Notice PON-13-609, making available up to $24 million in grant funds for the development of California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low carbon transportation fuels. 01/15/2014

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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.