The Mayor of Cordoba, Argentina visited Covington City Hall Wednesday morning to discuss the solid waste issues in Cordoba and how they compared to American cities and how a process called gasification could hold the key to reducing waste while simultaneously producing energy.
Mayor Daniel Giacomino said Argentina has significant solid waste problems, including rapidly expanding landfills, because the 1.4 million residents of Cordoba produce about 2,500 tons of solid waste per day. He is negotiating with the Florida-based company Innviron to build a gasification plant in his city. Giacomino and Innviron officials met with Covington officials including Mayor Kim Carter, former Mayor Sam Ramsey, Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon and Utility Director Bill Meecham.
Gasification is a process designed to be an improvement over traditional waste incineration, because it involves sorting waste into organic materials, or those containing carbon.
Traditional incineration can involve many different kinds of waste being burned at very high temperatures to greatly reduce its volume by converting it into ash, heat, gas and other materials.
There are several types of gasification processes for different kinds of waste, but the key difference is the sorting and burning processes. Because gasifiers require waste to be more carefully sorted, this can make them difficult to implement for municipal solid waste operations, because residents throw all kinds of different products into the same trash bags, according to the website gasification4energy.com.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, gasifiers use less oxygen so that only a relatively small portion of the organic material burns completely.
“This "partial oxidation" process provides the heat. Rather than burning, most of the carbon-containing feedstock is chemically broken apart by the gasifier's heat and pressure, setting into motion chemical reactions that produce ‘syngas,’” according to a DOE webpage. “Syngas is primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide, but can include other gaseous constituents; the composition of which can vary depending upon the conditions in the gasifier and the type of feedstock.”
This synthetic gas, or syngas, can be run through a cleaning process and used much like natural gas, according to the DOE.
Innviron President Neil Williams said his company can sort municipal waste to remove concrete, rocks, soils, heavy metals and glass, so when the waste is burned and broken down, less potentially harmful ash is produced — only 5 percent of the mass of the original waste.
However, more solid slag waste is produced, but this can be used to produce a cement-like material, Williams said.
Through this process, solid waste can be converted into energy, and Williams said the energy produced this way is more efficient than coal production.
According to Williams, the capital cost of a 10MW facility is $25 million. Mayor Carter said Covington is investing $168 in the expansion of the nuclear Plant Vogtle to eventually get 36 to 38 MW. Utility Director Meecham said Covington’s electric customer use around 90 MW of energy during the peak summer season. Gasification seeks to be an improvement in the process to solve two of the world’s greatest problems: reducing waste and producing affordable, clean energy.
“In Cordoba, we make big mountains of garbage. People don’t want to see or smell that,” Giacomino said. “Instead of looking for big landfills and having the same problems for 10 or 20 years, we found a solution.”
Carter was so impressed with the discussions, she asked Atlanta Innviron representative Thomas Roberts, the Chief Operating Officer, to come back to meet with county officials because Newton County owns the landfill on Lower River Road.
The meeting was set up in part because Roberts participates in the annual Salem Campground meeting and is good friends with former Mayor Ramsey. Giacomino had expressed an interested in meeting American mayors to talk to them about solid waste issues.
In addition, to build a gasifier plant to deal with new waste, Williams also mentioned plans to possibly build a 30MW gasifier plant next to an existing landfill that had operated for 20 years. He said much of that solid waste could be converted in energy for the next 25 years and would give them a clean, greenfield site at the end of the process.
“The thing is people want gasification, as opposed to landfills,” Williams said. “This helps protect the environment.”
The City of Dalton and Toombs and Lamar counties have gasification plants.