From waste to energy
Tribes’ biomass project would use
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News October 29, 2008
Non-recyclable plastics, discarded tires, wood, used oil,
agricultural waters and other garbage deposited at Klamath County
landfills may one day produce energy.
The Klamath Tribes and Graveson Energy Management, or GEM Americas
Inc., hope to convert municipal, industrial and commercial solid
waste into a clean synthetic gas that can heat boilers, produce
electricity or be converted into methanol. Jeff Mitchell, a tribal
council member and chairman of its biomass committee, and Will
Hatcher, the Tribes atural resources director, said the idea of
developing a biomass plant stems, in part, from the loss of clean
energy if Klamath River dams are removed. Dam removal is a key
factor in implementing the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration
Agreement, which would allocate water among tribal and fisheries
interests and irrigators and conservationists.
The Tribes recently bought the former Crater Lake Mill site 25
miles north of Chiloquin. Along with using typical biomass
materials like dead and salvageable wood, the Tribes are
partnering with GEM to study a new process that uses municipal and
other solid wastes.
“There is nothing comparable in the states,” said Brett KenCairn,
a GEM spokesman. “Europe is way ahead of us.”
The company uses thermal cracking technology to convert waste into
clean synthetic gas without combustion.
Air quality concerns
Members of Klamath County’s solid waste advisory committee have
voiced concerns about the process and the possible release of
toxins into the atmosphere.
Mike House, the committee’s director, said the Tribes would have
to clear a series of costly permit and hearing processes with
several agencies over a multiyear period. He said strict
environmental regulations mean no energy plant would be allowed to
negatively impact air quality.
“It takes basically an act of Congress to get these set up,” House
said. “Until we see something coming across the desk, it’s not
worth worrying about.”
Ken Cairn downplayed environmental concerns.
“We are not talking about waste incineration,” he said, adding
that the closed gasification system process results in no
emissions. “We all know about the many complications and dangers
of that. There are no smokestacks.”
But he admitted the new technology is little understood.
“There should be a healthy public dialogue,” he said. “We’re
really committed to working with the county. A lot of things are
coming forth that people have not heard about.”
Mitchell said preliminary talks are being held with Klamath and
Deschutes counties about using municipal solid wastes, which are
less expensive and more efficient than woody debris. He said using
municipal solid waste at the energy plant normally destined for
county landfills and transported by train to Washington could be
more cost effective.
Mitchell and Hatcher said some of the energy generated would be
used at the Tribes’ newly purchased mill site, which has been
renamed Giiwas Green Enterprise Park. It could provide power for a
variety of green forest products businesses, such as manufacturing
wood chips, juniper products, bundled firewood, small diameter
poles and posts, and for such agricultural uses as greenhouses.
Excess energy could be sold over the grid and transmitted on
through existing lines, Mitchell said. Plans call for bringing the
system online incrementally, starting with two megawatts of
electricity and eventually generating up to eight megawatts.
Mitchell said the scope of the energy producing facility means the
project will likely take four to five years to develop.
“A project this size doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
On the Web
For more information on Graveson Energy Management, or GEM
Americas Inc., and the thermal cracking technology proposed for a
Klamath Tribes biomass plant visit the company Web site at
www.gemamericainc. com. For information about Graveson operations
in the United Kingdom, visit the Web site at gem-ltd.co.uk.