Global Clean Energy Inc. (GCE) is a Humble, Texas- based waste-to-energy company that focuses on technologies to convert waste into high value energy, a process the company refers to as Reforming Environmental Salvage into Clean Usable Energy (RESCUE). GCE is focused on the North American market in the end-of-life plastic, tires and metal recovery.
The company announced in October 2014 that it had secured a long-term supply agreement of tire chips to be used as feedstock with Pittsburgh-based Liberty Tire Recycling, a national tire recycler that processes in excess of 140 million tires annually.
Waste360 recently sat down with the GCE’s Chief Development Officer Steven Mann to discuss the state of tire waste-to-energy projects in the U.S. and where the company fits in.
Waste360: Explain the state of waste-to-energy projects in the U.S.
Steven Mann: We are literally entering the beginning of the waste-to-energy era in the U.S. The technologies now exist to recreate how we make energy in this country by converting waste into energy instead of environmentally damaging oil wells, fracking, tar sand mining and incineration. If energy stopped flowing from all of these sources, the U.S. could create the energy it needs by converting its waste sources to energy—not just tires, but plastics and municipal solid waste (MSW). It’s a very exciting time and we’re proud to be a part of the future of waste to energy.
Waste360: Is converting tire waste into energy gaining popularity?
Steven Mann: Absolutely. It was always a popular idea, now the technology has caught up to the promise. There are many waste-to-energy projects being developed in the U.S. that will be active in the next three years. Also, there is progress toward new technologies using alternative heating elements other than traditional burners, such as microwave technology, that show promise in the future.
Between existing developments using current cutting-edge technologies, such as GSE’s projects and progress toward future cutting-edge technologies, the future for tires-to-energy has never been brighter. The next two years are going to be very exciting.
Waste360: How does the conversion work?
Steven Mann: First, waste tires are collected and shredded down to about ¾ of an inch and de-wired. The tire chips are inserted into the pyrolysis system. Pyrolysis occurs when you heat tire chips in the absence of oxygen so there is no combustion. This allows the tire chips to be super-heated without them burning.
When you indirectly heat tire chips to 450 degrees Celsius, you break down the hydrocarbons to form synthesis gas (syngas) and solids (carbon). The carbon is micro-milled to a fine powder and pelletized to create tire derived carbon black or rCB to replace crude oil derived carbon black for pigmentation and lower grade rubber products. The syngas is condensed into a Pyroil, which is then upgraded to a D975 ultra-low sulfur diesel. Any syngas that is not condensed into Pyroil, is recirculated back into the burners so the gas produced by the pyrolysis system is used almost 100 percent so there is very little waste.
Waste360: What are some of the benefits of converting tire waste into energy?
Steven Mann: The benefits are reducing waste tires into landfills, improving the environment and creating cleaner fuels than traditional oil wells and mining. Any time you can take waste and convert it into a cleaner useful product instead of burying it in a landfill, that’s a huge benefit to society and the environment.
Instead of having a toxic waste product like tires leaching into the soil, manifesting infestations of mosquitos from the water it captures or reducing potential for catastrophic fires and pollution created by waste tires, that’s a huge benefit to society and the environment. Tire waste to energy creates a cleaner version of fuel, energy or carbon than the crude oil alternative. It’s the purest form of recycling.
Waste360: What are the challenges?
Steven Mann: The challenges are securing the proper long-term tire feedstock agreements, choosing a proven technology, placing the system on the correct site and securing off-take agreements for the resultant fuel, energy and carbon. GCE has overcome each of these challenges and that’s why we are able to move forward with a viable waste tires to fuels project.
Waste360: Discuss GSE’s tire waste-to-energy projects and systems.
Steven Mann: Our waste tires to fuels project will keep more than 1.6 million waste tires out of landfills the first year with that number doubling to 3.2 million waste tires per year in phase 2. Our project is utilizing proven pyrolysis technology that has more than 20 systems deployed over the last 10 years.
We have secured long-term waste tire feedstock and resultant product off-take agreements. Our site has the infrastructure necessary to complete the project including a 125,000 square-foot building, access to major highways, a rail spur, water, natural gas and electricity. The location lends itself to successful permitting. We’re very excited about this project because we have all the elements in place to be successful.
Waste360: What successes has GSE experienced?
Steven Mann: The pedigree of GCE started with pyrolysis technology. GCE has developed its own proprietary pilot pyrolysis technology for the Canadian government. This success and understanding in the pyrolysis space allowed GCE to scour the earth to find the best available proven technology for its tire to fuels locations.
Another success GCE enjoys is the development of multiple locations to expand its modular pyrolysis projects throughout the U.S. for years to come. Additionally, GCE has secured feedstock agreements for tires with some of the largest companies in the U.S. and is finalizing off-take agreements for their diesel and rCB carbon products with the top companies in those industries. The GCE model is based upon its own knowledge of pyrolysis technology as well as studying why other projects haven’t succeeded. We literally reversed engineered failed projects to ensure our development projects would succeed.