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Plasma arc gassification of solid waste

Original post made by Craig Laughton on Jul 15, 2013

I have long argued that anaerobic digestion (AD) schemes are a fiasco for Palo Alto; plasma arc is a much more rational scheme. I offer the following to support my argument:

Web Link

AD requires way too much land, and it does not reduce the trash volume more than 50%. It also does not destroy the involved toxins. It is an unproven concept, being driven by the green agenda.

We need to defeat this turkey.

Comments (32)

Posted by unproven concept, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Compost "is an unproven concept"??????

Yet this experimental laser burning of trash is, what, exactly, if not, oh, an "unproven concept"?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

The USAF promotes this? Aren't they the ones with the $600 toilet seats?


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

>Compost "is an unproven concept"??????

Anaerobic digestion, is nothing new (it was discovered in river mud, after all). However, when it is used in large systems to deal with human sewage sludge and yard trimmings, it is unproven. It requires a large industrial footprint on our park lands.

>Yet this experimental laser burning of trash

Plasma arc gassification does not involve lasers or combustion, so I don't understand what you are talking about.

>The USAF promotes this?

Why not? The USAF is steeped in effective uses of technology. Ever heard of GPS?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I'm with you on the AD stuff, Craig.

But face it. The USAF is famous for buying costly turkeys (like those $600 toilet seats), so its purchase of an expensive whizbang garbage zapper ain't a good example. On the other hand, our city likes to buy costly turkeys (like those solar billboards by the dog pound), so don't give up.

BTW, GPS was a joint services development, which the Pentagon touted as the model for future inter-service cooperation. The first US navigation satellite system was the Navy's TRANSIT constellation.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm

>The USAF is famous for buying costly turkeys

This is probably not one of them. The USAF has a problem to solve (solid waste disposal). Plasma arc gasification of solid waste is not a brand new thing...it has already been deployed in some places around the world, including Japan. The USAF project appears to be energy neutral, however, with supplementation of energy-rich solid waste fuels, like used tires, it can easily become net energy positive.

AD is a real fiasco, seriously facing this city. It is being pushed by a politically-connected green crowd. Plasma arc would be much more appropriate, but if nothing gets done, it would be better than to build AD.


Posted by probly, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm

"This is PROBABLY not one of them"

Probably is always good enough for PA, right, Craig?

Probably going to take up FAR less space than AD, and cost less too, right?

Not.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

>Probably going to take up FAR less space than AD

No "probably" about that one. Plasma arc definitely would take up much less space, compared to AD...I have argued this point in the past, on this blog...you can look it up.


Posted by Noah and his , a resident of Professorville
on Jul 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

No way ARCing small amounts of trash at a time, allowing for the metals, the constant flow of high quantities of trash, etc.. will take significantly less space. Also, if this has been working since the 80's, why hasn't Japan, always having a premium for space, widely adopted it?

Miracle solutions get adopted fast.

IF they are miracles (cost effective, etc..)


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

>No way ARCing small amounts of trash at a time, allowing for the metals, the constant flow of high quantities of trash, etc.. will take significantly less space

From the link I posted:

"In Japan, a plasma facility originally designed to zap residue from automobile shredding now handles up to 150 tons of municipal solid waste each day in the city of Utashinai."

AD, on the other hand, is very limited in scope. It cannot handle the types of input loads that plasma arc can handle. It can only reduce input volumes of residential trimmings by about 50% (compared to 99%+ for plasma arc), because it cannot handle tough woody molecules. It is very questionable that AD can handle human sewage sludge.

AD does next to nothing to destroy toxins in the input stream...that is why resulting products were banned in San Francisco.

A side-by-side comparison of plasma arc, vs. AD, is a no brainer...plasma arc kicks butt.


Posted by Noah and his, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I will repeat the unanswered questions: if ARC is so great, why hasn't Japan duplicated it, in their very space limited, space is at a premium, society?

Are they afraid of technology? No, obviously not. They invest in modern technology all the time.

Craig deflects well when he does not have an answer about his pet solution (that costs a lot and doesn't save much space.)

He didn't answer why Japan has not widely adopted it (only 3 facilities in the whole country.)

He has not given space or cost comparisons other than broad terms.

"The main reason is because with any new technology you generally cannot get it financed," says Jeff Surma, president and chief executive officer of InEnTec Chemical LLC, adding that it typically costs about $1 million to $300 million to implement."

Craig, do you have any investments or job functions related to this technology? Have to ask, because unlike Noah and his arc, Craig and his arc seem more like Cervantes' fable.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:29 pm

My question is this-- we voted on this matter almost two years ago. What progress has been made to make a final decision? Why are we procrastinating? Peter pushed this as a major environmental issue. What is he doing to move this aLomg? He was gung ho during the signature drive. Did he overwork and is now spending the next few years recuperating? Or is this going into the " alma plaza" loop-- where we will wait for 10+ years before a final decision is made?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm

"where we will wait for 10+ years before a final decision is made?"

You got it, neighbor. The measure says the city council must wait at least 10 years before it can make that land a park again. Ten acres was undedicated from public park and dedicated to consultants and studies for ten years. Neat symmetry, wot?


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm

>if ARC is so great, why hasn't Japan duplicated it

Last time I looked, they had three plants.

>Craig, do you have any investments or job functions related to this technology

None. I just like to find solutions to real world problem that are rational. Plasma arc is; AD is not.


Posted by unproven concept, a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2013 at 5:18 am

Poster Noah notes that Japan only has 3 experimental plants and never adopted this technology on a big scale. Asks Craig why Japan didn't adopt this GREAT WHIZ BANG miracle. Craig answers "Last time I looked, they had three plants"

Great answer. Well, for a non-answer, that is.

Okay, we're done here. Craig had his little fun, trolling along with a completely useless solution. Nothing to see here. Move on, on Don Quixote.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 17, 2013 at 8:20 am

Ottawa, Canada recently signed a large contract for Plasma arc waste disposal. They don't seem to think that it is a Quixotic idea.

Web Link


Posted by throw money at the bleeding edge, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:06 am

Name ten installations worldwide.

Now you want PA to throw money at being eleven? How about when its a proven method with hundreds of installations that have driven the cost down. Who in their right mind wants PA on the bleeding edge????????


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 7:31 am

The site for the facility has been leased to Plasco for nominal cost by the City, which will pay a tipping fee for each tonne processed of $83.25 per tonne, escalating annually at the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index.

"The first 20 years of the contract are fixed and the City has options for a further four five year extensions.

The company added that the City of Ottawa has made no other financial contribution and has no other risk or obligation.

The City estimates that the deal will extend the life of Ottawa's existing landfill by at least 28 years saving the City approximately $250 million in future landfill capital costs." (from the Ottowa link)

This hardly looks like "throwing money at it", nor is it a "bleeding edge".

BTW, how many AD plants are currently handling human sewage sludge? I think the answer is zero or near zero. Yet Palo Alto seems to be all for being on that bleeding edge. Using your logic, shouldn't we wait until there are hundreds of effective AD plants before we in PA build one?


Posted by Get real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

You want a city that can't get a library built to do this.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

>You want a city that can't get a library built to do this.

I want PA to take a serious look at it, then compare and contrast with AD. I don't want PA to spend significant money on any plasma arc facility...the construction and operation would be on the contractor, similar to Ottowa.


Posted by get real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

because Palo Alto manages contractors so well, but first lets spend a ton of money doing a study to decide if we should be doing this.

bad idea. No track record that they could succeed at this, plenty of evidence that this will just be yet another money pit.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

>No track record that they could succeed at this, plenty of evidence that this will just be yet another money pit.

I take your point, although I think it is exaggerated, and the library model is not appropriate...it was funded by PA. The same challenge needs to made against AD. The Ottawa model is the one to think about for plasma arc.


Posted by get real,, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

"exaggerated"

ok, lets explore that, name a success


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

>name a success

Mihama and Mikata (Japan), processes 17.2 tpd of municipal solid waste and 4.8 tpd of sewage sludge and became operational in December of 2002. Still going strong.

Can you name one AD plant that does that much?


Posted by get real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

Thats not a PA success, try again. I'm trying to get you to convince me that PA has the chops to pull that off. Name a PA success to would convince me that PA could do this.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

>Thats not a PA success, try again.

Sorry, misunderstood...thought you were talking about plasma arc success.

Palo Alto successes? I was a small part of one of them, the Mayfield deal (playing fields/VMware development on the old Syntex site/housing element). On balance it did not cost PA very much, and it provided needed benefits (at least the playing fields/VMware projects...I was not in favor of the welfare housing element, but it was a political stool with three legs). By PA standards, it went through very quickly.

The RPPP (residential parking permit program)in College Terrace is another success. Again, by PA standards, it went through fairly quickly, thanks to Facebook and Stanford graduate students providing provocation....

Pretty soon, the car camper ban will be passed (I hope). Another success, even though it took way too long.

I agree with you about the library deal...it is the result of PA citizens wanting it all (a camel is a horse designed by committee). However, not all projects have that kind of baggage. There have been many successes in PA, even if the cost is high.

I didn't mean to open up a can of worms, but I thought your questioned deserved a response. This thread is about plasma arc waste disposal, as an alternative to AD. I suggest that we stay on point, if possible.


Posted by get real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

"residential parking permit program" and "car camper ban" and based on those you would trust them to oversee the building of this facility. I think you are an order of magnitude off in complexity.


Posted by get real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

"I didn't mean to open up a can of worms, but I thought your questioned deserved a response. This thread is about plasma arc waste disposal, as an alternative to AD. I suggest that we stay on point, if possible."

You proposed building this facility in Palo Alto, not me.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

>"residential parking permit program" and "car camper ban" and based on those you would trust them to oversee the building of this facility.

Note: You forgot to mention the Mayfield deal...

They wouldn't oversee the construction, other than very basic issues like pollution control, because they would not be paying for it, like they did for the library. The contractor for any plasma arc plant would need to have construction insurance bonds, in case things head south.

Plasma arc is not a major financial concern for PA. It is just a logical way to solve several problems. It is opposed by those green ideologues who oppose real solutions, because they do not want anything to interfere with their "zero waste" dreams.


Posted by Krag the new technology, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

YOU WERE CHALLENGED: name ten successes worldwide, and why PA should try to be eleven.

Wait till the tech is cheap and be #200

Bleeding edge was RIGHT, really toopid to try to be the first on the block as a city government


Posted by gel real, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Mayfield was just about negotiating with Stanford what they could build. PA did not oversee the building of it, it was built on Stanford land. If you have a way to getting Stanford to take charge of seeing its done right, that works for me. I'd trust them with this


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm

>Wait till the tech is cheap and be #200

Not a bad point...let's apply that to AD, too. However, since PA wants to be on the leading (bleeding) edge of AD, then let's apply that same standard to plasma arc. Agreed? If so, then we can get back our undedicated park lands, with no industrial plants built on it.


Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

> If you have a way to getting Stanford to take charge of seeing its done right, that works for me.

Perhaps offer them a research lab down there, to evaluate methods and means. Stanford might jump all over it, if all it needs to do is to oversee/push the construction...they have those kinds of folks.


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