Friday, August 21, 2009

Bio-Diesel from Municipal Waste

The day has arrived, almost. Synthetic diesel fuel made from municipal solid waste and sewage sludge will be used by ground service equipment at Los Angeles International airport, LAX. Rentech announced this week it has contracts for 1.5 million gallons per year of its bio-diesel that several airlines will purchase.

The bio-fuel will be made in a plant near Los Angeles (where there is abundant trash and sewage sludge). Startup is expected in late 2012, but this presumes there will be a break in the impasse over environmental permits.

For some perspective, diesel sales in California typically are approximately 400,000 barrels per day, or 16.5 million gallons per day. Thus, the bit sold by Rentech will not make much of a dent in refineries' production.

But, with all the green energy credits available for converting waste to bio-fuel, the plant may be a money-maker. As an added bonus, the plant produces and sells electricity.

What is not known, yet, is the delivered price of the fuel to the airlines. Will it cost more than petroleum-based diesel? Will the state tax this fuel in the same amount as conventional diesel?

This is but one small part of the green revolution. Presumably there will be some green jobs in designing, building, operating, and maintaining the plant. California could use some more jobs, with unemployment at 11.9 percent based on the numbers announced today.

What is interesting about this process is that it should be immaterial how much CO2 is emitted, because it is all from biological origin. This CO2 will simply recycle through the cycle, from air to plants to useful materials to the trash and back into the plant. The part burned by the diesel engines will also create CO2, and this will join the cycle. Thus, the EIR will not have a very long section in discussing the harmful effects of CO2 from this plant. What a concept.

No comments: