Sierra Energy – Turning Any Waste Into Various Energy and Valuable Goods
In July 2019, Sierra Energy earned funding as high as $33 million. The innovative company gained a lot of attention for being another new hope in the industry of renewable energy as well as waste management and pollution problems. Their product, FastOx Gasification, brings on an advanced technology that can be a solution for many of those problems.
An overview of FastOx Gasification
FastOx Gasification Technology can process almost any kind of waste and convert those into sustainable energy and other valuable outcomes. Impressively, this mechanism requires no fuels to burn, nor that it leaves toxic by-products that may harm the environment.
The whole system relies on heat, steam, and oxygen to run the whole cycle. The machine starts with many kinds of waste. But in the end, it will produce synthetic gas (shortened as syngas) and stones. Both are highly valuable and versatile.
This innovative machine can run 24/7 all year with no stopping, making it reliable to use daily. The cold gas efficiency is ranging around 66-79%. FastOx Gasification also possesses lower emission than natural gas or any other competing technologies.
How It Works
FastOx Gasification can receive almost any kind of waste, such as biomass, construction waste, industrial waste, medical waste, and even municipal solid waste. The procedure starts by putting all the waste into a gasifier. Oxygen and steam will then be injected to trigger a chemical interaction with the waste carbon molecules. This process breaks down the waste at a molecular level, which drives all the waste into four reaction zones in the gasifier machine.
The highest zone of the unit is the drying zone. Hot syngas produced from the waste will ascend there to remove all the moisture they contain. There is no solid waste stay in this zone.
The second highest zone is where the waste starts descending. The temperature here is about 300°F to 1,000°F. Most volatile waste will release chemical energy in the forms of hydrocarbons, light gases, and condensable tars.
3. Partial Oxidation
In the third zone, the remaining carbon-containing waste will react to the injected oxygen and steam. This reaction is exothermic, meaning that it produces extreme heat, around 4,000°F. The heat allows all the remaining carbon to turn completely into syngas, which will ascend through the devolatilization zone to the drying zone.
At such a temperature, all the metal waste and inorganic matter will melt and gather at the bottom of the unit. FastOx Gasification has a kind of tap at this part of the machine, allowing the hot liquid to be tapped out as required. With the power of gravity and pressure, the molten matter will form into inert stones.
The ultra-hot syngas at the top zone of the unit will move forward to a heat exchanger. This process will remove the heat and deliver it back to the gasifier machine as steam. The cycle rolls back, allowing the FastOx Gasification to become a self-sustaining technology.
The already-cooled syngas will continue to the cleaning aisle to remove all the contaminants until the gas meets a certain standardization. The cleaned synthetic gas can work as a form of renewable fuel.
The End Products
FastOx Gasification delivers 90% of its result in the form of syngas. On the other hand, the remaining 10% comes in the form of inert stones.
The synthetic gas can go through different measures of the cleaning and conditioning process. Each measurement will result in a different end-products of syngas, such as:
- Electricity with significantly less emission than fossil-based energy
- Ammonia to use as a primary ingredient in chemical fertilizer
- Diesel that is 20 times cleaner than California’s standard
The inert stones, on the other hand, make valuable materials for the construction business. Similar to the syngas, the inert stones can also come in different types due to different cooling processes. Each type of stone has its characteristics and usages in construction. For example, the pelletized stones can make a high-quality aggregate in lightweight concrete.
The exact composition of the resulting inert stones can be varied, depending on the composition of the waste it started with. However, Sierra Energy can guarantee that all the stones are completely safe and strong if used accordingly.
Input and Output Calculation
A ton of waste put into the gasifier would require about 233 kg of oxygen and 96 kg of steam injected into the system. The output of this process would approximately be 8.26 to 8.87 MJ/kg of dry syngas and 101 kg of inert stones. The syngas is composed of 70% carbon monoxide and 30% hydrogen. After cooling and conditioning, that syngas can turn to be 1,083 kWh of electricity, 148 liters of diesel, and 78 kg of hydrogen.
However, FastOx Gasification is scalable from 20 to 2,000 metric tons per day. The type of waste can also vary from one establishment to another. Hence, the end-products’ quantity will vary too.
Since the initial cost is quite big, people need to calculate the economic value of this machinery. This way they can decide how much the machine is worth for their facilities. Sierra Energy answers such curiosity by providing a Project Economics Calculator where anyone can simulate their investment in FastOx Gasification. The calculation can take detailed input to result in a more accurate estimation.
The Pilot Project
FastOx Gasification has its pilot project operating at the US Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett. The 0.25 acres of installation in Monterey County, California, is an effort by The U.S. Army and Department of Defense to manage its waste products more sustainably while also producing domestic renewable energy. This gesture, hopefully, can set a national example.
The gasifier installed has a capacity of 20 tons per day. The feedstocks are mostly municipal solid waste and biomasses. The system daily production includes up to 300kW of electricity, 42 gallons of FT liquid, and 50 kg of hydrogen. The local Water Quality Control Board and the Monterey Regional Air Pollution Control District have reviewed and approved the innovative system and its impact on the environment.
Sierra Energy’s FastOx gasification facility at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett in Monterey County. Photo Courtesy davisenterprise.com
The Advantages FastOx Gasification
FastOx Gasification is not the only waste-to-energy conversion technology. However, this unique innovation offers many valuable benefits, such as:
1. Wide Coverage of Waste Type
While most waste management technology can only work for specific types of waste, FastOx Gasification can accept any kind of waste, including hard-to-process wastes like construction waste and medical waste. The only things that this machine can’t take are just radioactive and explosive waste.
2. Complete Conversion
The ultra-high temperature allows all the waste to completely transform into valuable end-products. Organic materials will vaporize into syngas, while inorganic materials will melt and vitrify into stones. There will be no remaining residue or byproducts that would require special treatment to dispose of. The whole cycle is completely clean.
3. Low Footprints
It takes only 0.25 acres to construct the system. The number is significantly lower compared to other competing technologies like natural gas, solar panel field, and much more. Institutions or communities can easily find some spots to get this machine installed in their facility.
4. Minimum Resources
It may need water to create steam to start the process. But after that, the gasification process also produces heat and steam, which will eventually get its way back to enter the system again. With such a continuous cycle, the machine can sustain itself to keep running.
5. High-Valued End-Products
FastOx Gasification does a lot more than just managing waste in an eco-friendly way. Instead, it also produces valuable goods at the end of the process. The synthetic gas is highly versatile and beneficial. Even the inert stones can be profitable if sold for the construction industry.
Thanks to the simplicity of the design, the scale of the FastOx Gasification machine can be adjusted. The smallest size available has a capacity of 20 metric tons per day, just like the one at the pilot project. For larger coverage, Sierra Energy can also provide a gasifier machine with a maximum capacity of 2,000 metric tons per day.
Established in 2004, Sierra Energy aims to lead to a zero-waste future through a waste management system and renewable energy generation. This privately-owned company has won numerous awards and recognition in terms of innovative eco-friendly technology.
Sierra Energy spent their time in 2009 to 2013 to develop and test their prototype before finally discovering the current FastOx Gasification. The experiment took place at the Renewable Energy Testing Center in the city of Sacramento. This laboratory was funded by the US Department of Defense, who later applied the technology on their facility as the innovation’s pilot project.
The headquarters of Sierra Energy is located at 1222 Research Park Dr, Davis, CA 95618, USA. If you are interested, you can contact the company here
Sierra Energy aims to build a machine that can process up to 25 tons of waste per day to produce 1 megawatt of electricity. This amount would be sufficient to cover about 1,000 households in a community. The company also hopes to bring its FastOx Gasification to the international market.