Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What volumes of waste can ALFA systems process?

 

Our plasma FILL plants are deployed in several standard configurations ranging in capacity from 5 to 1000 tons of waste per day per reactor.

 

What are the by-products of the system?

 

The two principal by-products of the plasma FILL reactors are a synthetic gas called syngas and electricity, other byprpoducts include glass slag and recicled metal  without the production of an ash-like substance called fly ash. Neither of these by-products are toxic or leachable.

 

Other byproducts include: glass slag and metal pits, free of pollutants and sellable as construction aggregates.

 

Do your systems create any kind of emissions?

 

Our gasification plants dramatically decrease the dangerous emissions associated with traditional landfills.

Our reactors are closed systems with 2 phases of combustion: the plasma-ark and electrical generation stages. Each phase of combustion eliminates overlapping sets of toxins. Both phases of combustion are at temperatures too high to permit bonding of toxins associated with traditional gasification. In combination, all toxic by-products are eliminated.

Minor emissions come from the electrical generators which have a dramatically lower impact than a conventional diesel generator. The synthetic gas produced is a much cleaner burning fuel than normal diesel, so the resulting emissions are cleaner.

 

Does the reactor require a large amount of power for

waste processing?

 

Yes it does. Fortunately, the system produces it's own power.

The synthetic gas produced will power a large diesel generator. The plasma reactor uses on average about 15% of the power produced from the diesel generator. The electrical generation capability is extremely important because the excess energy produced can be supplied back to the grid.

 

How are hazardous materials destroyed?

 

The intense radiant energy and super-high temperatures created by the plasma reactor cause the actual molecules that make up hazardous waste to break apart through a process called “molecular dissociation”. At a molecular level, the waste separates into its base components, then recombines to form a safe synthetic gas during the cooling process. No hazardous agents that go into the plasma reactor will survive.

 

What types of waste can the plasma FILL

reactors process?

 

The ALFA plants can accommodate all types of waste:

Municipal Waste

Green Waste

Construction & Demolition Debris

Medical Waste

Bio-hazardous Waste

Tires

Some forms of toxic waste.

These systems can handle the waste pre-sorted or unsorted depending on the destination of the by-products.

 

How much pre-preparation is necessary

before processing?

 

None.The reactor processes all materials without any type of sorting. It may be desirable to reduce the size and volume of waste materials through the use of a shredder. This will help to achieve optimal processing efficiency.

We mix a small amount of consumables with the waste stream to provide a more consistent energy stream. The benefit of our approach is a complete elimination of the need for extensive pre-processing.

 

How effectively does the ALFA process

medical waste and other hazardous wastes?

 

Our systems can process all bio-hazardous and medical waste safely and efficiently. Temperatures in the plasma reactor can achieve 1300°C at the core of the plasma field. All wastes fed into plasma FILL reactors are irreversibly destroyed and converted through the process of molecular dissociation. The by-product is a safe synthesis fuel called syngas.

 

Isn't gasification just another form of incineration?

 

No. The plasma reactors are part of a thermal process that takes place in an oxygen-starved environment. Less oxygen is present in the reactor core, which stops the waste from burning. By applying intense heat to waste material without the presence of oxygen, the waste is broken apart into its simplest molecular structure. This process is far superior to incineration because hazardous emissions are effectively eliminated.

 

How do you eliminate dioxin emissions?

 

The primary means of eliminating dioxin emissions are multiple high-temperature zones and an alkaline ph balance in a closed system.

We monitor the ph balance within the reactor, adding lime when necessary to maintain a highly-alkaline environment. Dioxins can not exist at the temperatures at which our reactors operate: 1,300˚C in the first and 800˚ in the second phase. There is a closed system in our reactors in which syngas, once cleansed at 1,300˚C a minimum of 10 times, is super cooled to less than 200˚ instantaneously before it is channeled to a second heating area of 800˚C for the creation of electricity. There is no opportunity for a trace dioxin to escape within the closed system. It is not possible for a dioxin to escape the second heating phase.

Further, the issue of dioxins is well-known in gasification science. Ours is innovative and the most effective, but only one of a variety of solutions by the leading ark-plasma scientists.

 

I've heard about the ALFA Energy System™ (RES), recycling Municipal Solid Waste (MSW, household garbage) into electricity, and ethanol. What is it and how does it work?

Instead of landfilling or incinerating MSW, this new facility, using a Plasma Gasification process, converts all types of waste streams (gas, liquid or solid) into a fuel gas composed primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, nitrogen and water. This fuel gas is then used to generate electrical power. The process is very efficient. 99.9% of the waste that is input into the system is converted to energy or other salable products. Typical gasification or incineration plants generate up to 30% residual waste that must be hauled to a landfill. The Thermal Transformation process uses a high temperature (up to 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit.) plasma arc technology to "gasify" carbon based materials into an energy rich fuel gas with a BTU value about 1/3 that of natural gas. The fuel gas is then cleaned and cooled so that it can be used in a gas turbine to generate electricity. Non carbon based material is primarily transformed into vitrified glass or recyclable metal.

Does waste have any value? Is it a Liability or an Asset?

Waste is not a liability. It is one of the most significant and valuable resources we have. Society has made waste a liability because of the way it has chosen in the past to handle the waste. The ALFA Energy System™ treats waste as the valuable asset that it is and recovers and recycles over 99.9% of this valuable asset.

Isn't this "Plasma Gasification" process the same as incineration? Does the plasma gasification process "burn" the waste?

Incineration is the burning of carbon based (organic) material in an oxygen-rich environment, much the same as burning wood in a wood stove. Organic matter contains energy. The burning process requires a large amount of oxygen (O2). The carbon contained in the organic matter reacts with the oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). The combustion is highly exothermic and releases the energy in the organic material in the form of heat. The combustion of the carbon-based material is incomplete, leaving ash, tar and char that contains heavy metals and toxic substances requiring it to be sent to a special landfill. Non carbon based (inorganic) materials such as metal, glass, soil, concrete, silica, etc. are not affected by the burning process and become part of the ash. The total unburned material left over can be as high as 30% by weight. Incineration results in high levels of tars, furans, NOx, dioxins and sulfur dioxide, which are expensive to clean from the exhaust.

Plasma Gasification is not incineration and it does not burn the waste.

It is the transformation of carbon based material in an oxygen-starved environment using an external high heat source (plasma) to produce a fuel gas (also called a syngas) that can be used in other applications. Even though the temperatures are much higher than with incineration, the organic material does not burn because there is not enough oxygen. The process controls the amount of oxygen and allows only enough oxygen to form carbon monoxide. The organic matter is transformed to a fuel gas composed of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). Only a small amount of energy is released when the carbon and oxygen molecules combine. The carbon monoxide still contains substantial chemical energy and can be used in a variety of ways. The high temperatures of the Plasma Gasification process melt metals, glass, silica, soil, etc., which flow out of the bottom of the reactor. The metals are recycled and the other inorganic materials become vitrified (molten) glass. Because of the high temperatures and lack of oxygen there are no tars, dioxins or furans and Nox and Sox are much lower. The net result is that all the waste is converted to salable products.

What is Plasma?

Plasma is a gas that is essentially ionized, superheated air. A special plasma torch heats regular air to internal temperatures (inside the torch) as high as 25,000 degrees Fahrenheit and external temperatures (point of contact with the material) as high as 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The source of energy for the torch is electricity. The superheated air is used to thermally decompose whatever it comes in contact with. Steel foundries have used plasma to smelt steel for many years. Plasma is a well-established technology in many industries.

What is the difference between Plasma Gasification and standard gasification?


Standard gasification technologies operate the reactor in the 700 - 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. range. They do not use any external heat source and rely on the process itself to sustain the reaction. Normal gasifiers are really "partial combustors" and a substantial portion of the carbon is combusted just to support the reaction. Their gasification process produces a fuel gas similar to the gas produced by the plasma process, although it is much dirtier and contains char and tars. The lower temperatures cannot break down all the materials. With standard gasification many materials must be sorted out of the waste stream before the reactor and landfilled or processed in other ways. Because of the low temperature used, the gas that is produced by a standard gasifier has tars that are difficult to remove and other contaminants that must be further cleaned up. Char residue remains that is up to 15% of the weight of the incoming material and must still be landfilled. In addition to these drawbacks, most standard gasification systems cannot feed MSW directly from the truck. The refuse must be dried to an acceptable moisture content, and processed into a uniform size and consistency further adding to the cost and complexity.
Plasma gasification uses an external heat source to gasify the waste, resulting in very little combustion. Almost all of the carbon is converted to fuel gas. Plasma gasification is the closest technology available to pure gasification and is a "true gasifier". Because of the temperatures involved all the tars, char and dioxins are broken down. The exit gas from the reactor is cleaner and there is no ash at the bottom of the reactor. The Plasma gasifier can process any type of waste, does not require sorting and is not impacted operationally by moisture.


Why hasn't Plasma Gasification been done before?

Plasma gasification has been used in the steel, wood and other industries for many years. A general abundance of inexpensive electrical power and ample landfills have limited the commercial viability of this technology for MSW. There are a large number plasma gasification MSW plants in operation throughout the world in various industries. Several plasma gasification plants are in operation in North America operating on hazardous waste. With the demand for energy always on the rise, closures of landfills and the high cost of opening new ones, the time has come for our ALFA Energy System™ using plasma technology to come to the forefront.

What is "Fuel Gas" and what is it's the Btu value?

"Fuel Gas" is the name used to refer to the gas coming from the organic waste out of the reactor and used to fuel the gas turbine. It is composed mostly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen and has a Btu value of 320 Btu per cubic foot, or about 1/3 the Btu value of methane (natural gas). When combined with the nitrogen and water in the gas stream, the fuel gas has an overall Btu value of about 160 Btu per cubic foot. This can vary someone depending on the feedstock and moisture content.

Are there gas turbines that will operate on such low Btu gas?


Yes. Many of the turbine manufacturers have designed turbines specifically for low Btu syngas. In fact, the same turbine rated for methane at X MW will have a higher MW rating with syngas.

Is the electricity produced by plasma gasification "green electricity"?


Green electricity is defined as electricity produced from renewable sources. Typically we think of solar, wind and geothermal power when we think of renewable energy. However, MSW and other wastes renew themselves (with our help) and the energy produced from waste is green electricity. There are several companies that market green electricity. They generally do not market power from incinerators because of the negative environmental impact and bad reputation of incinerators. However, plasma gasification does not have the negative impact of incinerators and will eventually be sold by the distributors of green electricity.

Doesn't the plant generate carbon dioxide? Does this carbon dioxide contribute to the greenhouse effect?


When the CO goes through the gas turbine it is combined with more oxygen and energy is released. The CO becomes CO2 or carbon dioxide. Coal, diesel and natural gas power plants produce CO2 and contribute to the greenhouse effect. These power plants are using petroleum based fuels that are introducing new CO2 into the environment. The ALFA Energy System™ does not contribute to the greenhouse effect because it does not use new hydrocarbons as a fuel source. Our process simply releases CO2 that was already part of the base of organic material.

How much energy is contained in waste?


The United States produced 230 million tons of MSW in 1999. Industrial non-hazardous waste added another 7.6 billion tons. Medical waste and hazardous waste also add significant volumes of waste. If just the MSW were converted into electricity using our process it would generate over 30,000 mWh of electricity or an amount equal to more than 15 large coal fired power plants. For a plant processing 126 tons of waste per hour, more than 135 megawatts per hour of "green" power will be produced. After powering it's own needs this pant would export 1 megawatt for each ton of waste processed.

How will a ALFA Energy System™ plant affect the local citizens and the environment?


The ALFA Energy System™ is very environmentally sensitive recycling process. It will provide a long-term solution for disposing of residential, commercial, and industrial wastes. It will stabilize disposal fees, eliminate the threat of pollution associated with landfills or incineration. At the same time it will create jobs and provide a long-term income to the municipalities it serves.

How can you call this process recycling?
The American Heritage dictionary defines recycling as the extraction and reuse of useful substances found in waste. The ALFA Energy System™ is the ultimate form of recycling. Over 99.9% of the waste processed is recycled into other products and energy that can be reused. This is all done with no sorting and less effort.


What types of waste can be processed?


The ALFA Energy System™ can process any type of waste with the same environmental cleanliness and complete breakdown and recycling efficiency. No pre-treating, sorting, or extra handling is required. Household garbage, yard waste, glass, incinerator ash, oil waste sludges, plastics, paints, contaminated soils, tires, etc. can all be processed and recycled.

Can the plant process hazardous waste?

The same technology can, with only procedural and permitting changes safely and profitably process hazardous waste. Hazardous waste will be processed only after proper permits can be obtained. Waste that is classified "Hazardous" will not be permitted to be processed with "non-hazardous" materials as they are handled in a completely different manner. Strict rules and guidelines will be enforced that prevent haulers from delivering hazardous materials, unless the facility is permitted for this type of waste. The ALFA Energy System™ will process and recycle a far greater range of wastes than were previously possible. Hard to dispose of items such as tires, used oil, oil contaminated soils, auto shredder residue, coal fines, incinerator ash, most construction and demolition waste, even metal and glass will be recycled.

Where will the plant be located?

The plant can be located at any site that has adequate services and access. No visual evidence will be present that will indicate that garbage and waste is processed.

Will there be any odors from the plant?

The receiving area for all of the refuse is enclosed and kept at a negative pressure. The air required for the process is pulled through the receiving and storage areas thereby pulling the odors into the gasifier. The off-hours storage is contained inside a building and is cycled every 3-4 days. Only enough material is stored to operate the plant when it is not accepting wastes, such as at night and weekends. Odors are first minimized and then contained and processed along with the waste.

What happens if the facility breaks down or doesn't work properly?


At no time will the municipality or citizens be affected by scheduled or unscheduled shutdowns. Many operational contingencies and procedures are engineered into the facility design. These contingency plans are reviewed and approved by the local waste management authority. This ensures that waste and all byproducts are handled properly should any unforeseen events occur that cause the plant to go off-line. Also the turbines are set up so that they can run on natural gas if there is a problem with the waste plant.

Who watches over the facility to ensure it is operated in an environmentally responsible manner?


In addition to the regulatory agencies that the facility is subject to, a community advisory group, consisting of local residents will be formed to monitor the plants activities. This group will be funded by the facility and will monitor all operations and environmental compliance. Further, all emissions compliance data will be available on-line on a web page hosted by the company.

How will the facility get its waste?


The facility will receive waste in the same manner as a landfill or transfer station. Municipalities will still be responsible to pickup waste and haul it to the facility or negotiate with private haulers for this service. The participating municipalities will sign waste contracts for a negotiated period to bring the waste to the facility and pay a negotiated tipping fee. Where possible the plant could be located on a rail line or a shore line to receive waste by barge.

Won't we lose the income and positive environmental impact from the recycling program that we now have?


For some items the collecting and sorting out of the "recyclable" item such as glass and metal costs more than the income that is realized by the sale of such materials. The ALFA Energy System is a more efficient "recycling" method. We do not, however, discourage traditional recycling programs. We simply offer the municipality an option to decide which items to recycle traditionally and which to send unsorted to the facility for 100% recycling into energy or useful byproducts.

What risks are there if this plant is built in my town?

The facility does not create any new waste streams and all emissions are closely monitored. The design of the plant incorporates the latest technologies for modern storage tanks, containment systems and fire control systems. Modern control systems assure safe operation and proper reaction in the event of an upset. Risks are actually much lower than the risks of conventional landfills.