Entsorga West Virginia launched a plant in Martinsburg last month to put mixed municipal solid waste (MSW) through a mechanical prescreening process, compost it, then further refine it to make fuel for a nearby cement manufacturer.
“Through this mechanical biological treatment (MBT) process, we will blend organics and non-organics [like plastics and paper] with compost materials to make a solid recovered fuel (SRF), after removing metals. It’s a fluffy paper mixture that will be used as a supplement for coal,” says Emily Dyson, Entsorga West Virginia project manager.
This renewable fuel will offset use of coal or fossil fuel up to 30 percent to power the kiln at Argo’s Essroc Portland cement plant, according to Dyson.
“The technology is patented by our partners, an Italian engineering firm, Entsorga Italia. It has been deployed through Europe to make this same product. But we are the first to deploy it in the U.S.,” says Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHiTech Global and director of Entsorga West Virginia, which is a subsidiary of BioHiTech. BioHiTech develops technologies to convert waste to commodities.
“This is dramatically different from anything we know of in the U.S. today in that we are taking mixed waste that’s mainly residential trash to make an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved renewable fuel,” says Celli.
The product is not subject to EPA’s incineration rule but has to meet specifications identified by the cement plant that are in accordance with EPA stipulations, such as around air emissions.
No heating is involved, other than heat generated during the natural decomposition of waste. It’s essentially accelerated composting achieved through an automated process. Fuel goes out the door 10 to 14 days from receipt of the feedstock.
Three entities own the facility: BioHiTech Global, KinderHook Industries and Entsorga USA.
Berkley County Solid Waste Authority provided the land for the project, which is being financed with $25 million in tax-exempt, private bonds issued by the West Virginia Economic Development Authority. Argos will buy and use the fuel through a 10-year contract.
“This is a great example of how a cement company is helping to improve their own sustainability footprint. Argos is setting a precedent here that I think they should be proud of. And we would not be able to finance this project without their long-term commitment to purchase this fuel, as we would not have gotten financing,” says Celli.
The project was conceived almost six years ago.
“We cut some teeth around it five years ago. The first time you do something like this is long and laborious with regard to permitting, financing and construction,” says Celli.
The facility will produce about 55,000 tons of SRF annually and is designed to process 110,000 tons of MSW per year.
What differentiates this process from others, says Celli, is “we use a patented process where waste with organic fraction is put through a bio-drying hall. And we circulate air up and down through the waste. While we do this, we sample air for moisture, dust and other [factors that must be controlled].”
Another standout feature, he says, is that the facility is completely automated. As waste goes through, if the system finds material that does not meet criteria, it will self-correct, adding more volume or slowing down the processing.
Entsorga West Virginia is a game changer for the management of solid waste in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, says Clint Hogbin, chairman of Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority. He believes the plant may help Berkeley become the first region in the state to exceed West Virginia’s 50 percent diversion goal.
“The facility offers a unique management solution to a region that is growing in population and where it is geologically difficult to site new or larger landfills. It easily met Berkeley County’s commercial solid waste facility siting criteria and enjoyed broad public support during public comment periods,” says Hogbin. “With this facility, the region can save valuable landfill space, increase recycling and create jobs while managing our regional waste stream in a more responsible manner.”
Entsorga West Virginia has another MBT facility undergoing the permitting process in Rensselaer, N.Y. And the company is talking to other potential partners elsewhere.