Monday, May 25, 2009

A Billion Barrels

Peak oil, the energy crisis, $4.00 gasoline, energy security are terms we've all become familiar with, yet right in our own back yard lie the equivalent of a billion barrels of oil. Its there for the taking.

Each day we send 1000s of tons of waste to landfill, and mostly think nothing of it.

Let me give you some figures that will shock you:
  • We throw out 10% of the food we buy.
  • Every day the average person throws out 4.5lbs of garbage.
  • Every little baby generates about a ton of trash per year.

Despite our recycling efforts about 56% of what gets thrown out ends up in landfill. About 70% of this material contains carbon which can be reclaimed and turned into fuels, chemicals and electricity. This means the amount going to landfill could be reduced to about 16% with very positive effects on the environment.

Landfills are huge producers of greenhouse gases, predominantly methane which is about 30 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. In addition even in places where it is collected from landfill, about 46% escapes into the atmosphere.

Not only do these gases escape but dangerous chemicals and metals leach out and contaminate the ground water.

I'm not suggesting we burn the waste to create electricity, although in some instances that might be preferable. However I am suggesting that we look at non-burning solutions to convert the energy into useful forms. Where there is no burning, there are minimal emissions. In some cases this energy will be as electricity, in others it will be fuels or chemicals. In others it will be all three depending on what is needed in a particular market.

This waste contains valuable energy that can be used to power trucks, planes, cars and of course to generate electricity. All commodities which are vital to our survival, lifestyle and well being. Every year North Americans send over 1,000,000,000 tons of waste to landfill. If this could be converted to fuels, it would create a billion barrels of high quality fuels each year.

With the right choice of process, these fuels can be the cleanest around. They can be made so they contain no sulfur, no particulates, no aromatics and no nitrous compounds. These are all the things in fossil fuels that harm the environment. What's more research by MIT shows that fuels made from this kind of material produce extremely low greenhouse gases in their life cycle. Lower levels even than bio fuels.

This is what this blog is about. Waste is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to go to a hole in the ground. It can be turned into value added products that are in great demand.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michael,
    This is a strong argument for consumers and government to rethink how we recycle and how we manage the waste we currently do not recycle. I look forward to reading more articles from you.

    Len Rosen