cleantech insights

On site: BlackGold Biofuels in action

Kate McArdle

Last week, I went with a few of my colleagues to visit San Francisco’s Water Pollution Control Plant, where one of the Entrepreneur Showcase presenting companies, BlackGold Biofuels, has a facility that turns sewer grease into biofuel. The grease found in sewers is a big concern for utilities, and San Francisco alone estimates it spends $50 million/year on costs associated with sewer grease. BlackGold’s system not only alleviates the grease problem, it turns it into a profitable product.

Over at the plant, Emily Landsburg, BlackGold’s CEO, and Alexandre Miot, a Process Engineer at the plant, gave us a tour of BlackGold’s setup, which is the first commercial facility of its kind in the U.S.


On stage in New York: Climax Global Energy

Lisa Sibley

This week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Climax Global Energy, is a presenting company in the Entrepreneur Showcase at the Cleantech Group’s New York Forum, going on through today. The Entrepreneur Showcase provides capital-seeking cleantech innovators with 10 minutes to pitch top cleantech investors, financiers and corporate buyers.

The Fairfax, S.C.-based company coverts landfill-bound plastics into high value synthetic oil for the clean diesel, syn-lube and wax markets with its patented microwave-assisted pyrolysis process. There is about a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the United States alone, and a $3 billion wax market, according to CEO John Griffith.

Its pyrolysis process essentially cuts plastics (which are long chain polymers) into shorter chain polymers to make synthetic oil. Pyrolysis is a process in which a substance is heated in the absence of oxygen and typically occurs under pressure and at operating temperatures of more than 430°C (800°F), although Climax’s process runs near atmospheric pressure.

The company has a commercial-scale prototype in South Carolina with a 3-ton/day capacity, with plans to start construction of its next reactor train this year at the same location. Additional locations are to follow in South Carolina, New Jersey and other …

Blue ocean market opportunities in waste plastic to fuel

Lisa Sibley

Today, more than 90 percent of global waste plastic winds up in landfills, sits on barges in the middle of the ocean, or is incinerated. The remainder is recycled in some form, a substantial portion of which is exported to countries such as China.

But this is expected to change as the waste-to-energy and nascent waste plastics-to-fuel/energy market specifically is poised to take off in the next 12 to 24 months, especially in the U.S. With governments trying to manage land use issues and oil and energy prices predicted to rise, regulation is driving this largely underserved “blue ocean” market. And everyone from large corporations and oil refiners to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs want a piece of the pie.

Other drivers include directives in Europe aimed at shutting down landfills and incentives such as H.R. 3592, the Plastics Recycling Act of 2009 in the U.S. Opportunities lie in converting waste plastics into energy, and specifically into liquids, synthetic crude oil, transportation fuels and industrial petrochemicals. There is a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the U.S., and a $3 billion wax market.

There are a number of technologies to address the market, ranging from liquefaction to …

Waste-to-fuel firm addressing major market opportunity

Lisa Sibley

Tigard, Ore.-based Agilyx Corp., formerly known as Plas2Fuel Corp., has raised approximately $8.5 million to date and is currently seeking Series B funding of up to $10 million.

As this week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Agilyx has already raised $2.1 million in convertible debt. Existing investors in the company include Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures, and Reference Capital.

Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum told the Cleantech Group the private alternative energy company uses what it says is proven, commercially viable modular technology to convert difficult-to-recycle waste plastics, which typically end up in landfills, into synthetic crude oil and other valuable petrochemical products through a process that is scalable, versatile and environmentally friendly.

The company has been manufacturing and selling synthetic crude oil for about two years, deploying its first commercial system in 2008 in Tigard. The facility has a capacity of around 20,000 pounds per day of waste plastic, or the equivalent of about 55 barrels per day of oil, Ulum said.

Agilyx uses its patent pending process to “decompose” plastics back into hydrocarbons while separating undesirable organics (chlorine, bromine, etc.) entrained in the plastic, using what is known as “a continuous batch process.”…

UK opportunities abound in mixed, bio-based plastics recycling

Lisa Sibley

A new report out this month from Banbury, UK-based Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) snagged my attention today, offering updated insights into the UK market for recovered plastics.

According to the report, the UK continues to be dependent on export markets for recycling its recovered plastics. More than 700,000 tons of recovered plastics were exported last year for recycling, primarily to China (accessed via Hong Kong), with about two-thirds being packaging.

In 2009, about 900,000 tons of plastic was collected for recycling, including 590,000 tons of plastic packaging. The rate of plastic bottle recycling is now at more than 40 percent in the UK, with attention going to collecting and developing infrastructure to recycle mixed packaging plastics, the report suggests.

Mixed plastics are non-bottle plastic packaging from household waste streams, such as plastic trays and films. The UK’s first mixed plastic reprocessing facility is expected to launch in 2011, and this appears to be an area for potential growth.

Another UK market that’s still in its infancy also caught my eye: bio-based plastics, or plastics that come from crop or non-oil sources. Volumes are currently too low to make the recovery of such plastics economical, the report points …

Spotlight: MVR takes on recycled plastic resins in Kentucky

Lisa Sibley

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Mountain Valley Recycling (MVR) said today it dedicated a new 90 million pound per year recycled plastic resin manufacturing facility in Frankfort, Ky. The company manufactures high performance sustainable plastic resins.

MVR’s $9.2 million investment in the equipment and the 220,000-square-foot facility, previously home to an auto parts manufacturer, is expected to help boost the local economy and job market with 360 new hires. The company is backed by two private equity firms HG Global Equity and Boca Raton-based Laser Partners.

MVR specializes in re-engineered sustainable resins that can be customized for use in a variety of applications, including for consumer product manufacturers that are “trying to get ahead of the green curve,” MVR CEO Ron Whaley told the Cleantech Group today. The Cleantech Group offers research analysis and insight in the areas of waste and recycling. MVR says the carbon footprint of its resin is 70 percent less than that of a virgin resin.

Whaley said this is the first model facility for the 7-year-old company in the U.S., though it had a smaller facility in Tennessee focused on traditional recycling. The company is looking to bring “a cookie cutter approach” with the Kentucky facility to …

Genan to break ground on first US tire recycling plant

Emma Ritch

Danish tire recycler Genan expects to break ground before the end of the year on a scrap tire processing plant in Houston, Texas—the first U.S. plant for the self-proclaimed world’s largest tire recycler.

Director of Business Development Lars Raahauge told the Cleantech Group that Genan is waiting on permits for the plant with the capacity to process 65,000 metric tons of scrap tires each year.

The process has several outputs that can be sold. Each tire is deconstructed into 67 percent rubber granulate or powder, 18 percent steel, 14 percent textiles and 1 percent waste. The textiles are burned to produce energy.

Recycling prevents the harmful environmental effects from improper disposal while displacing the need for virgin rubber, Raahauge said. Recycled rubber can be made into artificial turf, athletic fields, thermal and acoustic insulation, roads, and playgrounds (see Saving the planet, one tire at a time?).

“It’s a very dull and simple thing, but very important,” Raahauge told the Cleantech Group.

Raahauge noted that tires are made from the best rubber, steel and textiles because manufacturers can’t risk compromising safety. The products are very valuable for resale, and the economic case is made better by government regulations that pay …