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Published March 17, 2010 07:29 AM

Waste Management To Deploy First Plasma Gasification System

S4 Energy Solutions LLC, a joint venture by Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE: WM) and InEnTec LLC, announced plans to develop a plasma gasification facility at Waste Management's Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Oregon. The planned facility will convert municipal solid waste into fuels and energy.

Construction is expected to begin in the early summer, with startup scheduled by year end.


With the S4 system, waste materials are prepared and fed into a first phase gasification chamber that operates at temperatures of approximately 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. After the first phase, the waste materials flow into a second closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma.

The intense heat of the second stage plasma gasifier rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into a synthesis gas (syngas). The syngas may then be converted into transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, or industrial products like hydrogen and methanol. The syngas could also be used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation. In a secondary stage of the process, inorganic (non-carbon-based) materials are transformed into environmentally inert products, according to a Waste Management press release.

"Our goal is to extract as much value as possible from waste and this project will help us recover valuable resources to generate clean fuels, renewable energy and other beneficial products," said Dean Kattler, area vice president for Waste Management Pacific Northwest. "This project strengthens our focus on renewable energy and new technologies that use waste as a resource."

Waste Management began generating renewable electricity at the site in January 2010 with the startup of a new landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facility. The LFGTE process captures methane gas generated as waste decomposes in the landfill and then uses the gas to generate 6 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The electricity is powering 5,000 homes in Seattle through an agreement with Seattle City Light. Wind power is also generated at the landfill, with 67 windmills producing more than 100 MW of renewable energy for PacifiCorp.

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