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Vaporizing Garbage to Create Electricity 492

Posted by Zonk
from the sounds-like-a-plan dept.
CaroKann writes "Geoplasma is planning to build a power plant in St. Lucie County, Florida that will generate electricity by vaporizing landfill trash and sewage treatment plant sludge with plasma arcs. It will be the first plant of its kind in the USA and the largest in the world. The power plant is expected to destroy 3000 tons of garbage, generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day. The plant will also supply steam to a nearby Tropicana juice plant. The landfill is expected to be depleted in about 18 years. In addition, up to 600 tons of melted, hardened sludge will be produced each day and will be sold for road construction."
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Vaporizing Garbage to Create Electricity

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  • Mr. Fusion! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Helmholtz (2715) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:43PM (#16073729) Homepage
    Glad ol' Doc Brown had the right idea .. now when do I get one to stick ontop of the trunk of my time travelling Delorean?
    • 2015, give or take any tampering with history between now and then.
    • by phatvw (996438) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:55PM (#16073787)
      Let me try to brush up on my yank-math...

      3000 tons = 6,000,000 pounds
      120,megawatts = 120,000,000 watts
      A CDROM weighs 1/2 oz.

      So you'd need approx 96 AOL CDs per hour to run a 60W lightbulb. I think I have just enough of those to get me through the end of the year...
      • by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:58PM (#16074040) Journal
        "So you'd need approx 96 AOL CDs per hour to run a 60W lightbulb. "

        Wait... let me get this straight, someone explain this to me.

        I pay money for them to pick up my trash right?

        They take my trash, zap it into electricity.

        I have to pay for electricity.

        So, I'm basically paying to have my trash back? WTF? Why can't I just install a trash plasma zapper under the sink and skip the expensive middle-man? My trash + electricity a month is $200+, I'd love to keep the money in my pocket.

        "Hunny, the A/C's not working!"
        "Just throw some more AOL CDs at it!"


        This is better than solar power if it works! Now bring on those electric cars :)
      • Unit mismatch (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ari_j (90255)
        I can't fault you for this, because the story blurb got it wrong in the first place. You don't generate "megawatts per day." But assuming that the most sane disambiguation of the story blurb's numbers is correct (namely, that it burns 3,000 tons of garbage per day and generates 120 megawatts of power), it comes out to 96 AOL CDs per day to run a 60W bulb. Reducing the magnitudes a bit and simplifying, the story blurb claims 3,000 tons = 120 megawatt-days, or 6 pounds = 120 watt-days.

        (96 AOL CDs / 1 da
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      Glad ol' Doc Brown had the right idea .. now when do I get one to stick ontop of the trunk of my time travelling Delorean?

      When you fix that damned flux capacitor.
           
    • Byproducts (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xybot (707278) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @05:57PM (#16077571)
      Sounds like a great idea but I'm still a bit skeptical about the composition of the byproducts. Contaminants like mercury don't simply go away, I assume they will be bound into the sludge portion of the byproduct, which is likely to be quite high given the fact that they are re-processing sewage.

      What about the Dioxins from vapourised plastics, A plasma arc produces an incredible heat but Dioxins are also very resistant to being broken down in this way.

      Sulphur? How is this kept out of the exhaust gases?
      • Re:Byproducts (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:55PM (#16084856) Journal
        If you heat things up enough, you'll break down even dioxin. All you need to do is dump in enough energy to start breaking the (fairly stable) molecular bonds. This [websorcerer.com] is what dioxin looks like. A chemist can tell you why it's so stable: lots and lots of alternating single/double bonds. quick chem lesson: lines drawn between atoms, in this case the angles on the outside of the structure, representing a carbon atom at each angle, are single bonds, drawn C-C-C (or in this case /\) while double bonds are drawn as two lines: C-C=C. Something with alternating bonds, C-C=C-C=C, acts as if it has about 1.5 bonds between each, which is tremendously stabilizing. Benzene is a ring of six carbons, with six single and three double bonds: alternating single/double bonds, so it's drawn as a hexagon with a circle in the center, to symbolize its electron structure. This has two benzenes, with oxygens connecting them. Because the oxygens have electron pairs that are unused in bonding, but are in the right place, they can act as, essentially, parts of double bonds, meaning the center section is also alternating single/double bonds -- or, more correctly, the whole works has evenly distributed electron density. Whew. here is some more stuff [chemguide.co.uk] about aromatics and the stability of benzene.
        The bond energy of carbon-carbon bonds in benzene is about 200 kJ/mol (as I recall: I may be wrong); dioxin is (I think) going to take more energy to break. But at any given bond energy, a given temperature with large excess of oxygen, over a given time, will break a certain percentage of the dioxins down into smaller (and quickly oxidized) byproducts, so all you have to do is establish what's a reasonable level of dioxin to release into the atmosphere (which a person could justifiably argue is "zero, dammit!") and make sure your flame temperature is high enough that you transfer more energy than that threshhold to the exhaust stream. The temperature of flames is really spectacularly high -- the free air temp of burning oxygen and hydrogen is something like 5500 degrees F -- but you have to guarantee that the mass of the exhaust actually gets that hot, so you have to care about heat transfer, not just temperature. In any case: this is well-known chemistry. It is possible to burn dioxins and destroy 99% (or 99.9% or whatever you've decided is 'enough') of them.

        The sulfur would become sulfur dioxide, which would be captured in scrubbers, the way they do in steel plants and coal-fired power plants. They use the captured material to make sulfuric acid, and sell it at a major profit, even considering the initial cost of installing the scrubbers.

        That's probably WAY more than you ever wanted to know, but I like chemistry.
  • I dunno... the idea of vaporizing trash with plasma arcs sounds like something you'd do in a 1st. person shooter ... not a recycling plant. But if this works as advertised, it's pretty cool. How much electricity does it take to run though? Seems like this would consume a lot of power!
    • Indeed. This seems pretty far-fetched. I'll tip my hat to American ingenuity if it works ... can you conceive of how many cities are going to want one of these plants if it's for real? The money to be made is unimaginable. Landfill space is expensive. Dealing with "sludge" is expensive and suffers from severe NIMBY issues. If you could just incinerate it all and generate power to boot... I just need to see some proof. It's just so incredible, you know? What kind of hideous gotchas does this plan hid
      • Re:Indeed (Score:5, Funny)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOspAm.hotmail.com> on Saturday September 09, 2006 @11:09PM (#16074087) Journal
        can you conceive of how many cities are going to want one of these plants if it's for real?

        If it's used effectively, a plant like this could clean up whole countries. In anticipation of it's availability, Australia has built a collection site for our most environmentally damaging garbage. Once this rubbish [aph.gov.au] has been fed through a white-hot plasma, our country will be much cleaner, and it's wonderful that we'll finally be benefiting from something which has long been little more than a toxic eyesore.

      • Re:Indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @11:32PM (#16074164)
        You'd be surprised. These plants exist in other parts of the world already, so it's a proven process. Toronto's been debating building one for a while (mainly for the garbage-disposal value since we now ship our trash to Michigan) but every time the environuts hear the word "incinerator", they get their collective panties in a collective bunch. Doesn't matter that the technology is proven, clean, and a damn sight better than wasting thousands of dollars and burning fossil fuels to ship our garbage to another country. Environutism has never been about being rational.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dbIII (701233)
          Meanwhile in the Phillipines they are phasing out incineration as quickly as they can due to problems with dioxins and other nasties being produced - so obviously those envionmentalists do have a few very good points. However with decent pollution controls like there is at the recent Japanese incinerators and nearly every coal burning power plant on earth you don't have to worry about anything other than CO2 and finding somewhere to dump the ash - which may be acidic but that's a lot better than breathing
  • Everyone knows the best thing to do with garbage is to attach a rocket to a large ball of it and fire it directly into space.
  • by NixieBunny (859050) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:47PM (#16073748) Homepage
    We'll be harvesting landfills in 100 years to get the materials (plastic stuff mostly) that our country is so busy paying China to manufacture, then buying and disposing of in said landfills. If all that fodder is vaporized for energy, we're screwed.
    • You know, as I read this article, I had that same thought. I always thought that the next most logical place for us to "mine" for raw materials would be landfills. Lots of metals and carbon. They said that they would use the "slag" for building roads. I would think that that would be the place that you would look for materials to build the cars.

      I don't know. I guess if they are just burning off the carbon, then they are taking the plastic that used to be petroleum and burning it. I didn't know you cou
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        Actually, I have been thinking about buying a garbage dumps from the 60's-70s. For the most part it is clean garbage (i.e. no love canal), should have lots of refuse (generate methane for a few years), and finally, should be LOADED with fairly pure steal, copper, rubber, etc. I would think that it would be easier to recycle these areas, then to mine and smelt.
    • by mnmn (145599)

      Makes me wonder.

      Landfills in China must be cheap. Why dont we ship all garbage there?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816)
        Sure, and with today's fuel prices, it would cost us hardly anything!
    • by gameforge (965493) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:16PM (#16073877) Journal
      I don't know anything about waste management, but if people care about recycling plastics, shouldn't they be doing that before they throw it in the trash? I think once it's in the landfill, it's "gone"; that means even if we wanted to, there's no way to harvest it out of a landfill that's remotely profitable. I mean, how much would they have to pay you to start digging through landfills for eight hours a day? And that's just the cost of mining the plastic out of the landfill.

      People need to worry about recycling these materials (plastic, aluminum, paper, etc.) before they toss them into the trash. Many people (myself included) have signed up for seperate services for recycling stuff like this, and put out a recycling bin once a week with the trash.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        I think that the idea is that plastics in the ground aren't valuable /now/, but 100 years from now, when there's no more petroleum to pump out of the ground, it will be profitable to 'mine' plastics from old landfills.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      If we aren't making plastic out of atmospheric CO2 and energy a century from now, we either won't need plastic, or we won't need energy that much. Because our current rate of consumption growth demands we generate vast amounts of energy and plastic from something other than oil from the ground, which will be long gone by 2106. If not something like solar and CO2, then just scrubbed coal, extracted so efficiently that we can spend much of its energy cleaning it to near-zero emissions.

      If we don't go down one
  • by ossington (853347) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:48PM (#16073755)
    With minimal impact, good usage of by products and so forth. The only problem is that if we can just zap away our inconvenient little problems (tonnes and tonnes of trash, for example), we will never do anything to curb our overzealous consumption. Doesn't sound like a sustainable idea in the grand scheme of things.
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      Everyone should feel guilty about living in a consumerist society, right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300)
      Well, its not supposed to be the ultimate solution. Anyone looking for a single key that'll fix all our consumption problems is living in a dream world. I don't think letting our garbage pile up beneith us was doing much better at curbing our consumption either. I think that our consumption isn't the real problem; its what we do with what's left over from consuming things. No matter how little we consume, if we can't take the output and make it into new inputs, it will not be sustainable in the end. This ki
  • After reading the article, which briefly mentioned small scale plants in Japan and failures in other countries like Germany, it's starting to sound a bit to good to be true.

    BTW, does this mean trash powered Deloreans will be out in a few years? I won't even ask for time travel to be standard, it can be optional.
  • Megawatts per day (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:50PM (#16073763)
    "The power plant is expected to destroy 3000 tons of garbage, generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day."

    Watt is a measure of energy per second. That is, power. Saying 120 megawatts of electricity per day is nonsense. I think they meant to just say 120 megawatts.

    Doesn't slashdot have editors for this kind of stuff?
    • by crow (16139)
      While you're technically correct (a watt is the power equivalent to one joule for one second), electricity is generally measured in kilowatt hours, as that's how it's sold. I expect that the "per day" was added by the reporter who had no clue. It probably puts out 120MW continuously (i.e., 120MW-hours per hour) or at peak operation.

      What's obvious is that the writer didn't have a technical understanding.
      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:30PM (#16073936) Homepage
        What's obvious is that the writer didn't have a technical understanding.

        Wow, I've never seen that happen. I mean, writers always completely understand the technology they are writing about. I think this is the first time I've ever read an article where the writer didn't understand what he was writing about.
  • by ergo98 (9391) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:52PM (#16073773) Homepage Journal
    Here in the Halton region, which is comprised of some suburbs just West of the Toronto metro, there has been some talk of building one of these plants [halton.ca] (although they've tossed around the number $700 million). This is an effort to deal with the reality of garbage, not to mention that reality that Toronto has been giving the entire country a continual black-eye by shipping waste to Michigan [google.ca] (if I were a Michiganer, I'd be pissed to be another regions dumping ground. Even as an Ontarian, the endless row of trash hauling trucks, each leaving a wake of loose garbage, is untenable).

    But despite the reality that no one wants to build dumps, and Toronto has been spending millions shipping it to an entirely different country, there are still the head-in-the-sand dreamers who would rather the issue just disappears. A prominent Toronto city bureaucrat [torontosun.com], for instance, has poo-poohed the idea, decrying the vile idea of "burning" waste. They'd rather drive it 500 miles in transport trucks to dump it somewhere else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Malc (1751)
      So easy to blame Toronto in all this, but what about the business in Michigan? Surely it's their fault? Of course, that would mean Michiganers blaming one of their own. The reality is, Toronto has to find the best deal to keep costs down for its tax payers. The site in Michigan is the cheapest site capable of handling Toronto's waste. And in all fairness to Toronto, the city has made massive strides to reduce the amount of rubbish [toronto.ca] it places in land fill sites.

      BTW, less than 25% of the waste from Ontari
  • by PreacherTom (1000306) * on Saturday September 09, 2006 @09:58PM (#16073798)
    This has been attempted before. I used to work in the waste industry, and one of my clients had a plan to develop this kind of technology. The problem was that, despite predictions, the waste simply did not burn hot enough. If they've managed to overcome this obstacle, this is going to be huge. The cost-effectiveness still concerns me, but government subsidies can take care of that.
    • by daeg (828071)
      The mentioned city is small by comparison to major cities in the US. I can see subsidizing this plant, but there should be no reason to subsidize plants in say, New York City. In fact, if it turned out to work and to work predictably, I can see the generated power subsidizing trash collection.

      Only if it works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jwiegley (520444)

      What???!!! I vote not to subsidize this. In fact I vote to abolish all other current government subsidies. I vote that I will take care of myself and my own trash on my own dime by providing equivalent value to others and that everybody else should do the same thing!

      See, the problem with government and the current public is that there exist people who think "Oh, the government will pay for it", when in fact a government has no money to pay for anything. What you really meant to say was:

      The cost-effec

  • this sounds like it has a lot of potential but I don't think poeple would be friendly to the idea the Tropicana juice plant would be recieving steam that was a biproduct of what the layman would essentally read as burnt trash.Even made me gag. But in all seriousness this sounds like a great idea and if all the biproducts are safe to use and this produces less pollution than fossil fuels then I am all for it. This may be the big break we need to to free our power plants from Big Oil--but the question reamins
  • by BeeBeard (999187) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:02PM (#16073822)
    This will never get built. Let me explain: People near the Treasure Coast are retirees. And I don't mean in the "Oh, it's Florida...of COURSE there are retired people there" sense. I mean that many of its communities were planned and built specifically for bluehairs. Port St. Lucie, for example, is just such a community.

    Now as impossible as it may seem, octogenarians are not really up on the newest technological advances. The moment you say the words "landfill trash" to these people, the NIMBY (not in my backyard) impulse will dominate, and granny and gramps will be making phone calls, changing zoning rules, voting down money, and generally just making Geoplasma's job as difficult as possible. They're retired. If you thought they didn't have the time or inclination to do these kinds of things, then you're mistaken.

    I know it makes no logical sense to want to make use of modern garbage disposal technology, and yet not want it anywhere within a million miles of you, but trust me, that is the mentality. The article characterizes this as a county-wide effort. I bet not. I bet the people who are slated to have this trash burning marvel right next to them will soon be mad as hell in 3...2...1...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by EvilSS (557649)
      Am I the only one thinking that this technology could also be used to solve the blue-hair problem? Would renaming the company Soylent Energy be too obvious to them?
  • Similar ideas have involved injecting oxygen to incinerate waste at very high heat. Does anyone have recent info on this process?
  • Downsides (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:08PM (#16073843) Homepage Journal
    "Okay, who is the shit-head who threw away a barrel of sodium!"
  • Energy / time^2? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Will_Malverson (105796) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:11PM (#16073855) Journal
    From the summary:

    ...generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day


    120 megawatts per day? So, after about 8 days, it'll be generating a gigawatt? In a year, will it be producing 43.8 gigawatts?

    Probably not.

    My first guess was that it's probably generating 120 megawatt-hours per day, or what those of us who know physics would call "5 megawatts".

    They say that they'll use about 1/3 of the generated energy, and plan to sell the remainder back to the grid. Electricity is usually worth something like $20-$50 / MWh. If they're selling 3.3MW into the grid, they might be able to get $1600 - $4000 / day from this thing.

    However, they also say that they can recoup their $425M investment in 20 years. Assuming a 4% interest rate (municipal borrowing is cheap!), they'd need to pay back a little over $2.5 million per month, or about $85,000 per day.

    If the power plant is actually generating 120 megawatts, then they're looking at (80*24) megawatt-hours per day, or $38,400 - $96,000. They're also selling steam and sludge, and I don't know what the current market value of those is. Yes, I know that you pay $60 - $100 / megawatt-hour for your home electric service, but electricity on the bulk market (especially at night) is a lot cheaper.

    • by hazem (472289)
      Don't forget the revenue from charging to collect the garbage in the first place. That in itself is a very lucrative business.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tobiasly (524456)
      120 megawatts per day? So, after about 8 days, it'll be generating a gigawatt? In a year, will it be producing 43.8 gigawatts?

      If only we could harness the fusion potential of common household garbage, everyone knows it easily generates 1.21 gigawatts.

    • by CaffeineJedi (643314) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:50PM (#16074016)
      My first guess was that it's probably generating 120 megawatt-hours per day, or what those of us who know physics would call "5 megawatts".

      Um... no. I think they actually meant 120 megawatts. Because you see:
      120 megawatts * 24 hours = 2880 megawatt-hours.
      If the price of a megawatt-hour is about $35 dollars (we'll just use the median value of your estimate), then they are making $100 800 a day .
      Multiply that by 365, and you get: $36 792 000 dollars a year.
      Which means... that if they sell back 2/3 of the energy over the course of 20 years, they will make: $490 560 000 dollars (gross, in today's dollars)

      Just FYI, some of us also "know physics" and can actually use Google calculator to make an estimate ;)
  • A way to dispose of bodies without all that search-party-knee-deep-in-garbage silliness...

    To stay on-topic, pie-in-the-sky stuff like this never pans out. It just doesn't. In this case, it will either use more energy than they thought, emit more pollution than they thought, require more maintenance than they thought, or produce a byproduct that they won't be able to sell. Yeah, nasty slag made from garbage and shit... I bet that the Department of Transportation will be all over that. Even if they have to b

  • by Tablizer (95088)
    There goes our last chance to find the Apollo 11 master tape.
         
  • 120 MW a day ?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Old Wolf (56093) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:15PM (#16073871)
    It's not possible to have "120 megawatts per day". A watt is a RATE of energy usage (joules per second, in fact). It takes 120 MW to power a million 120W light bulbs -- for 5 seconds, or 5 hours, or a day, or a year -- how long you keep that rate up, has nothing to do with how fast the actual rate is !

    Perhaps the article meant "120 megawatt-hours per day", although that would be a very strange unit of measurement (not as bad as Libraries of Congress, though).
  • by Skudd (770222) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:15PM (#16073872) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, but I highly doubt I'll be consuming any more Tropicana products if they're going to be made from steam of vaporized landfill waste... There's just something unsettling about that.
    • I have modpoints. However, I couldn't find the -1 Knee Jerk Reaction mod.
    • by gregor-e (136142)
      But you'd be okay using the electricity they generate to warm your soup? What's the difference? In one case they're transmitting energy as heat stored in water to drive turbines in Tropicana. In the second case, they've used the heat to drive their own turbines and send the electricity to you.
      • by Skudd (770222)
        Thinking about it that way, it would probably be fine. Reading the original post though, I have an image burned in my mind of the steam being mixed with the final product. It's not a pretty sight.
  • by vrmlguy (120854) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (esywmas)> on Saturday September 09, 2006 @10:28PM (#16073931) Homepage Journal
    "County officials estimate their entire landfill -- 4.3 million tons of trash collected since 1978 -- will be gone in 18 years."

    "Geoplasma expects to recoup its $425 million investment, funded by bonds, within 20 years through the sale of electricity and slag."

    Does this mean that during the last two years, St. Lucie County will be importing trash from other counties? What if those counties also build these things? Will "trash pirates" be raiding nearby landfills for material to burn?

    • during the last two years, they will vaporize the plant itself
    • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:16AM (#16074630) Journal
      Does this mean that during the last two years, St. Lucie County will be importing trash from other counties?

      No, that means they'll finally START burning the trash that has been collecting in the 18 years since the plant began operations.

      When they say the "entire landfill" ... "will be gone in 18 years", they don't mean it's going to explode, or turn into a black hole. Trash will keep piling up, though, interestingly, not as fast as the plant can dispose of it.

      Perhaps that will mean the cost of dumping will drop, and more trash trucks will divert to that dump, instead of going elsewhere.

      That is the situation in the Puente Hills landfill (L.A.) as dumping fees are cheaper than elsewhere, in-part because they siphon off the methane, and run a large power plant off of it.

      We may well be entering the age of fewer, larger, regional landfills, all making money off of the trash they collect in one way or another.
  • This is just another idea to rid the world of gas to create energy. Changing World Technologies [changingworldtech.com] is also working to turn garbage into oil.

    Those who are worried about gases being released into atmosphere. This technology is much much more then a incinerator. It breaks down the garbage into it's most basic form and broken down into elemental components. You should listen to the video at GeoPlasma [geoplasma.com]. Any CO2 produced could be passed through a zirconia electrolysis cell to produce oxygen.
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @11:05PM (#16074072)
    I'm guessing the most optimistic person in the world wrote that. First they aren't generating much power, the waste steam is a huge maintenance hassle as steam pipes either need to be made of stainless steel or something else that isn't going to rust. Second, after building it they are going to discover that they need to spend millions every year on scrubbers just to keep themselves below the EPA limits on the pollution, heavy metals and other nasty stuff from getting into the air. After doing that they will find out that their garbage fees go up astronomically as a result of the number of shutdowns due to violating said EPA standards because half the residents are throwing away toxic materials in the trash (you can ask people not to throw mercury, batteries and toxic chemicals away but they will still do it) and as a result of the damage said materials do to the scrubbers, incinerator and geration systems. And finally they will be paying to dispose of the hazerdous sludge that contains the remainder of the heavy metals and other toxic chemicals (take two household chemicals toss in a plasma arc and what will you get? millions of cominations of nasty nasty substances that can't be predicted or accounted for) that weren't belched out of the smoke stack. And if they think for a minute any roadway designer or contractor is going to use that stuff without being mandated by law they need to lay off the crack.

    The fact is that you don't build roads with materials that have unknown and extremely variable properties. 50 years ago they might have used the sludge in road construction (because they didn't know better) but not now, the chemical properties could be destructive/corrosive to the roadway, cause hazardous contamination in runoff and dust, and it could range from hard durable rock like material to a bad bit of clay. We don't build roads out of trash, unless someone is paying for you to take that trash, and it's a guaranteed uniform and chemically neutral substance, like glass. But this is what happens when you let the marketing department write your article.

    Our county made the mistake of building an incinerator 20 years ago, it was the worst mistake they ever made and became the biggest money suction device that has kept the county broke for the length of the factility. I bet the total cost over 20 years not including interest was double the estimated price and it would have been cheaper to ship the garbage to China at the prices being paid per ton to incinerate the garbage.
    • by dattaway (3088) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:23AM (#16074639) Homepage Journal
      The stainless steel pipes are what we use for steam, but its the gaskets that keep blowing. Its friction due to heat contraction cycles that wears them out and creating leaks all the time. The gaskets are made out of high temperature sythetic aramid fibers and have a limited lifetime due to this wear. I know, because I used to have to replace them. I won't mention maintenance due to hard water deposits, insulation problems, and the expansion due to long lengths of pipe. And these massively long schedule 80 pipes do expand great lengths. That fresh Tropicana Orange Juice had better be next door, because even a mile of pipes is going to require constant work.

      The joys of working with 450F, 450psi steam. Ever seen pictures of someone who got exposed to something like that?
  • Napkin numbers (Score:5, Informative)

    by gregor-e (136142) on Saturday September 09, 2006 @11:20PM (#16074122) Homepage
    It takes 9000 tons [syr.edu] of coal per day to run a 1000 MWe generation plant. Geoplasma says they plan to consume 3000 tons of garbage per day to generate 120 MW. That'd give garbage about 1/3rd the energy density of coal using this process, which doesn't seem preposterous. They say the plasma will consume 1/3rd of the electricity, yielding 90 MW of marketable electricity. Florida commercial average is 5.86 cents/kWh, so 90 MW ought to go for about $126 thousand per day.

    Their other products are chump change:

    Quarried rock goes for about $3.75/ton. Of the 9000 tons of garbage they burn, they end up with 600 tons of slag, worth about $2000/day.

    Steam is worth about $10/1000 lb. The 80000 lbs of steam they'll sell to Tropicana is worth about $800/day.

    They don't mention it, but they are probably able to collect tipping fees from the sewage folks and, once this landfill is gone, dumping fees for future garbage.

    Still, the bottom line is electricity. If their efficiencies are off or if the market for electricity gets cheap, they may have a hard time amortizing $425 million in debt, even at favorable bond rates. $425 Million at 4.5% over 30 years would require about $2 million/month to service. Their $126K/day income gives them a gross of $3.8 million/month. Enough to service the debt and have about $1.8 million/month for salaries and other recurring costs. It might fly. But if they rack up significant maintenance costs that amount to a significant fraction of their total $425 million plant cost over the 30-year lifetime, it probably won't.

  • Pave it all (Score:5, Funny)

    by ddt (14627) <ddt@davetaylor.name> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @01:15AM (#16074478) Homepage
    That's great, because nothing says "environmentally friendly" like spewing out miles of asphalt so that we can continue to pave the planet.

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