QUANTUM INTERNATIONAL'S PLASMA TECHNOLOGY: GASIFICATION PROCESS DESCRIPTION OVERVIEW:
The Quantum System begins with the thermal transformation of waste to produce a clean combustible gas referred to hereinafter as "Fuel Gas". The Fuel Gas is used to produce electricity in a combined cycle gas/steam turbine. Alternatively, the Fuel Gas can be used to produce ethanol (denatured ethyl alcohol), a fuel that can either be blended with gasoline or burned in an engine as a neat fuel. Heat generated by the process is used to produce electricity, superheat steam, heat boiler feedwater and to distill.
ZERO WASTE PHILOSOPHY
The process operates on a ZERO WASTE philosophy, defined as: The recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.
• The conversion of any carbon-based material is in excess of 99%. Non-carbon-based materials are converted into vitrified glass. Molten metals are separated from the glass and recovered. NON-CARBON BASED FEEDSTOCK MATERIALS ARE CONVERTED INTO SALABLE PRODUCTS WITH NOTHING LEFT OVER. THERE IS VIRTUALLY NO NEED FOR A LANDFILL WITH THIS PROCESS!
• The Fuel Gas produced is much cleaner than standard gasification processes and only contains traces of some elemental contaminates such as particulates, chlorine, sulfur and metals (amounts depend on the feedstock). There are no tars, furans or dioxins. Depending on the waste input there may be trace amounts of other elements. Most of the particulate is removed by a cyclone back into the process, becoming part of the vitrified glass. The chlorine is then scrubbed out leaving dilute hydrochloric acid (HCL). The sulfur is removed in a wet scrubber, producing sodium bisulfite.
• The dilute HCL contains some amounts of particulate and metals, which are removed. The particulate and metals removed at this point amount to a fraction of 1% of the original feedstock.
• The dilute HCL can be concentrated to make a 20% salable HCL product. The water that is removed by either process is reused in the plant for makeup water. The only water discharge is cooling tower and boiler blowdown.
• The sole discharge into the air is from the turbine, which meets U.S. EPA standards.
• Heat from the process is used internally to produce electricity, distill ethanol and distill HCL.
• The technology for the patented Thermal Transformation process has been applied commercially to a variety of materials including Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). The developer of the process is a well-known and respected company.
• The process is designed using GUARANTEED TECHNOLOGIES!
PROCESS FLOW DESCRIPTION
The following is a description of Quantum process for transforming Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and other waste materials into energy and useable by-products. The process can be broken down into four sub-systems: material handling, thermal transformation or plasma gasification, gas clean up, and steam and energy production. A flow diagram is shown at the end of this section.
• The incoming waste is weighed in and then deposited on the tipping floor from any of the trucks currently in use that pick-up and or transfer MSW. No tedious sorting or handling is needed. The only separation that is required will be large oversized pieces that won't fit into the shredder, heavy metal items like engines that may slow down the shredder or items that need special pre-processing, such as refrigerators, freezers and AC units that need the Freon removed. Hazardous waste and medical waste are handled separately and not co-mingled with normal waste.
• The system is designed to process waste as quickly as possible. During delivery hours the waste is delivered faster than it can be gasified. Part of the waste is stored for processing at night and on weekends and holidays. Any oversized material is shredded and then conveyed to storage.
• The waste is completely cycled every 3-4 days. Should unscheduled shutdowns occur, the waste received from the municipality goes into the storage area which is designed to handle normal surges and continue accepting the waste.
• The waste is injected into the upper part of thermal transformer (also referred to as the plasma gasifier or reactor) and piles up in the body of the reactor. The plasma torches located at the bottom of the reactor generate a flame that is between 5000-8000º F.
• The organic material does not burn because there is not enough oxygen. The organic matter is transformed to a gas composed primarily of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2) and nitrogen (N). This gas contains substantial energy and can be used in a variety of ways.
• The hot gas rises up through the waste piled in the reactor and begins the gasification process on the material piled in the reactor. By the time the waste has reached the bottom of the reactor, the high temperature, oxygen starved environment has totally transformed all organic compounds into a gas.
• The gas that exits from the top of the reactor and is made up of primarily carbon monoxide, hydrogen, water and nitrogen. Small amounts of chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, particulate, carbon dioxide and metals with boiling points less than 2280º F are contained in the gas. Because of the low oxygen atmosphere and high temperature, the base elements of the gas cannot form toxic compounds such as furans, dioxins, NOx, or sulfur dioxide in the reactor.
• As the gas exits the reactor it first goes to a proprietary gas reformer and then it is cooled in a series of high temperature heat exchangers. The sensible heat is reduced to about 270º F and is used to generate high-pressure steam that is fed to a steam turbine to produce electricity.
• The high temperatures from the plasma torches liquefy all inorganic materials such as metals, soil, glass, silica, etc. All matter, other than the metals, becomes vitrified or molten glass. The metal and glass flow out of the bottom of the reactor at approximately 3000º F. As the metal and glass flow from the reactor, they are quenched in a water bath. The glass forms obsidian like glass fragments. The metals are then separated from the glass.
• There is no waste left at the end of the thermal transformation. All of the waste is recycled into metal, glass or has been converted to fuel gas.
• After the fuel gas has left the heat exchanger, approximately 85% of the particulates are removed in a cyclone. A smaller percentage of the metals are also removed with the particulate. The recovered particulate and metals are then injected into the molten glass. The components of the glass are locked into the glass matrix and cannot leach out. The vitrified glass material passes EPA leachability tests.
• The gas then goes through a scrubber where the hydrochloric acid (HCL) is scrubbed out to form dilute HCL water. The liquid goes through a series of nano filter membranes where the particulates and metal in the liquid are removed. The metals and particulate at this stage cannot go back into the glass and can either be sold to a metal refiner or removed to a landfill. This small amount of material is the only potential material that goes back to a landfill and represents less than a fraction of 1 percent of the waste feedstock. The clean HCL water is concentrated to 15-20% for commercial sale.
• The water in the gas is condensed out and is used to provide clean makeup water for the rest of the plant.
• The hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the gas is scrubbed out to make fertilizer grade sulfur using a biological process or alternatively can be converted into sodium bisulfite. The gas then goes to a gas compressor and then to the gas turbine.
STEAM AND POWER GENERATION
• High-pressure steam from the primary heat exchanger goes to a steam turbine where it is converted to electricity. The electricity generated with this steam source provides most of the power needed for internal power requirements. The system is capable of generating all its own internal requirements.
• The fuel gas goes into a gas/steam combined cycle turbine where it is used to produce electricity.
• All the available heat in the process is used to make electricity or steam. The discharge temperature off the gas turbine is less than 270ºF. Any low-pressure steam (small amount) not used in the process is condensed.
• A facility designed with electricity production can export approximately one megawatt of electricity for each ton of MSW, depending on the moisture content and characterization of the MSW.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONCERNING QUANTUM PLASMA
(These responses are based on international operations and proposals presently underway by Quantum.)
I. Plasma Arc Technology and Facilities.
1. What is plasma arc technology?
Plasma arc technology was developed by NASA in the 1960s to test the integrity of heat shield materials protecting spacecraft upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. It is a form of artificial lightning that generates temperatures hotter than the surface of the Sun.
The technology, which as been used in iron foundry melting at a General Motors plant in Defiance, Ohio since 1989, has a diverse array of uses, including the disposal of municipal solid wastes (MSW).
MSW is a pressing environmental problem. In 2003, alone, the EPA reported that U.S. residents businesses and institutions produced more than 236 million tons of MSW. Plasma arc technology can recover enough energy from 1,000 tons of MSW to power approximately 12,000 homes for a day. Imagine the possibilities.
2. Why are countries considering this technology and why now?
With population and business growth, countries have begun to evaluate environmentally friendly and economically viable options to dispose of the vast amounts of waste generated. Plasma gasification provided a sustainable solution with a strong track record—allowing the country to take care of today’s waste disposal needs and prepare for the country’s continued growth.
3. Would the plasma gasification plant proposed for the City of Houston be the first of its kind?
The facility proposed for the City of Houston will be the third such facility located in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world.
Plasma gasification facilities have been in used to destroy MSW in Japan for more than five years. These facilities have a similar design and use Westinghouse Plasma Corporation heating elements and cupolas similar to those proposed for St. Lucie Country, Florida, and those being contracted for with Quantum in the Peoples Republic of China, and the Republic of the Philippines.
The facilities in Japan include:
• A prototype in Yoshii, which was certified in September 2000. It processed MSW and produced hot water for an adjacent recreational facility for two years, when it was decommissioned, as planned.
• A second facility, which was certified in December 2002. It processes 24 tons per day of MSW and sewage sludge and provides hot water for plant operation and an adjacent recycling center for the cities of Mihama and Mikata.
• A third facility, which was certified in April 2003. It processes 300 tons per day of MSW and automobile shredder residue in the city of Utashinai and exports 4.3 megawatts of electricity, to the local power grid.
Also, GM commissioned a plant in Defiance, Ohio, in June 1989. It has been in continuous operation for 17 years. The plasma arc-based facility is used to melt raw materials into engine blocks.
Each gasification unit at the proposed plant in the City of Houston, would be approximately the same size as the plasma heated cupola installed at the Defiance plant.
4. Where exactly will the proposed facility be located on the landfill property?
The proposed Quantum facility will be contained in or next to the existing landfill. 10 to 20 acres would be required.
5. How long will it take to design/build the plant?
It will take approximately 12 to 18 months to design and build the plasma gasification facility proposed for the City of Houston.
6. Will this process get rid of the existing landfill? If so, how long will it take for that to happen?
The proposed plasma gasification facility is designed to use a mix of old and new MSW—meaning that the plant will process the MSW that is delivered to the Quantum bailing and sorting facility on a daily basis, and it will feed 1,000 tons of previously-landfilled MSW into the plasma gasification plant. Doing so will dispose of hundreds of thousands of tons of MSW from the landfill each year while ensuring that no new MSW is added.
Based upon current estimates, it will take approximately 10 years to dispose of all the waste at the facility once the plasma gasification system is up and running.
7. As the needs of the city grows, will Quantum be able to handle the larger amounts of incoming waste daily and continue to keep up with the projected 1,000 tons of mined waste daily?
Yes. Anticipating growth in the area, the facility is being designed so that it can expand easily to accommodate the additional population growth.
1. What byproducts will be created by the proposed plasma arc facility?
Plasma gasification produces a number of beneficial byproducts, including a hard, obsidian-like stone that can be re-used in paving projects; metals that can be recovered for resale; and fuel-rich gases that can be used to generate large quantities of heat and electricity.
2. Will emissions from plasma arc technology harm the environment?
Plasma arc technology generates no harmful by-products, and the project will be designed to comply with all environmental permitting and operating regulations. All gaseous waste matter is captured for treatment and subsequent reclamation of useful fuel gases. These gases will be used to generate renewable energy in the form of heat and electricity.
3. What kind of emissions will the plasma gasification facility produce?
All Quantum Plasma Units will be designed to comply with all environmental regulations.
Different types of waste and various processes for energy recovery and conversion produce different emissions data, so Quantum is working with each municipality to characterize the types of waste that will be gasified in the facility. The design process for the proposed Texas plasma gasification facility will use that information, the emission inventories and performance of similar plants, as well as all regulatory requirements, to fine tune the design of the facility to obtain optimal environmental performance.
Then a preliminary list of projected emission concentrations will be developed for inclusion in the permit applications.
4. Will there be a stack associated with the proposed power generating facility? If so, what is the anticipated height of the stack?
There will be a stack associated with the power generating facility. The exact height of the stack has not yet been determined; however, it will be similar to US models.
5. What does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say about using Plasma Arc technology for the destruction of MSW?
The EPA Environmental Technology Council has reported that municipal solid waste and animal waste can be used to produce energy and hydrogen for fuel cells in an environmentally friendly manner. The Council has also identified plasma arc facilities as a way for municipalities to safely dispose of waste while generating revenue from energy production.
6. Will the current odors coming out of the landfill be alleviated or will they worsen with this new facility?
The plasma facility operates under negative airflow meaning that the materials causing the odor go into the plant and are processed. The negative airflow prevents the odor from being released.
III. Health and Safety
1. What are the safety risks associated with operating the Plasma Arc and with processing the fuel gas?
There have been no worker health or safety issues associated with the production of fuel gases.
2. Are there health risks to the neighbors of the landfill by having a Plasma Arc facility in close proximity?
This is a low emission process—with all emissions being well below EPA standards, meeting all US State and Federal emission limits.
1. Who will finance this project?
Quantum, and its finance members, will finance 75% to 100% percent of the proposed project. Quantum has arranged for various financing packages to fund these programs at no cost to the government. The city may be required to issue a SBLC, to cover the project during construction, and for one year following operational start-up. Quantum will design the project finance strategy, raise the appropriate equity capital, and work with the government to underwrite the project and raise the appropriate debt capital.
2. What is the estimated cost to the residents of the city and county?
There is no cost to the residents beyond the tipping fees that are already paid.
3. Is plasma arc technology cost-effective?
The proposed plasma arc facility will provide waste destruction in an environmentally sound manner and economically viable manner. Quantum is financing up to 100 percent of the proposed project—including construction and operation of the facility. Making it a win-win for the city & county.
4. Who will work on the facility? Will Quantum import their own labor or will they use local subcontractors and laborers?
The Quantum plant will create approximately 200 new jobs with the project for residents and others whose skills and experience can be applied to this facility. Quantum will do its best to use local contractors and laborers to fill the jobs during construction and later operation. As an equal opportunity employer, Quantum will hire those who have the skills, education, and experience that best fit the positions available.