Earlier this month at the company’s TurningPoint Ethanol Demonstration Plant they confirmed the second of the two new technologies that Fulcrum will use for the large-scale production of transportation fuel from garbage that would otherwise be landfilled. The company is developing technology that would convert garbage into fuel, and along the way address a whole host of problems from national energy security to global warming and other forms of environmental degradation.
Their process involves multiple steps to convert “municipal waste” first into “synthesis gas” and then conversion of that gas into ethanol. If the process works it would be a renewably sourced fuel whose feedstock is available everywhere. That point itself offers a cure for the energy security problems inherent in relying on fossil fuels available only from unstable unfriendly countries. Also because it’s carbon content does not come from fossil fuel sources, when this ethanol is burned it does not increase carbon concentrations in the ecosphere. Contrarily burning fossil fuels increases the carbon concentrations in the ecosphere, hence burning fossil fuel worsens climate change and other environmental degradation whereas burning renewably sourced ethanol does not.
For any fuel production process to be viable it must meet a very important goal. Does it have a positive “Energy Return On Investment” (EROI)? In other words does the resulting fuel have more energy content than the energy expended to create the fuel? Fuels with a negative EROI are not worth putting into production because there is a net loss of energy. The production process they describe involves several steps which could be energy intensive. Their press release discusses the process as being efficient and utilizing catalysts.
An economist.com article discusses the plant Fulcrum is building near Reno Nevada. In its initial configuration it will have a 10 million gallon per year production capacity and be expandable to perhaps 95 million gallons per year. And the company has identified sites for other plants and claim a tremendous total potential production.
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