Two companies to convert Indiana MSW to ethanol

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy
At press time, the Lake County Solid Waste Management District board was expected to approve contracts at the end of May for two separate companies to make ethanol from the Indiana county's municipal solid waste (MSW). The combined capacity of the two proposed plants is 170 MMgy.

According to district Executive Director Jeff Langbehn, the board issued a request for proposals for MSW disposal last year. It received two proposals for waste-to-ethanol projects and one for landfilling. In March, the district preliminarily voted to develop contracts with all three companies. Genahol Powers 1 LLC would be the primary vendor for converting waste into ethanol, while Indiana Ethanol Power LLC would be the secondary vendor. Allied Waste Industries Inc. would be contracted to landfill the waste that can't be converted into ethanol.

Lake County said it has plenty of MSW to supply two ethanol facilities. It's home to Gary, a Chicago suburb, and 16 other municipalities. In addition, two adjacent counties and the city of Chicago have expressed interest in sending their MSW to the facilities. "Since [the proposals have been submitted], there has been so much interest," Langbehn said.

Genahol Powers 1 expects to start processing 4,000 tons of waste per day and ramp up to 10,000 tons per day, which would produce 150 MMgy of ethanol. The company would use a patented process that has 40,000 hours of proven production on a pilot scale, according to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Earl Powers. After recyclables and the non-recoverable waste are removed, the remaining 80 percent to 85 percent will be fed into a series of gasifiers to make synthesis gas. "We have a proprietary method of taking that syngas, cleaning it and making ethanol through the use of a chemical catalyst," said Don Bogner, vice president of marketing for Genahol. He said capital costs will range from $250 million to $410 million, depending on the size of the facility.

Indiana Ethanol Powers plans to utilize a patented type of weak-acid hydrolysis invented by collaborator GeneSyst International Inc. The process uses gravity-pressure vessels to turn waste products into simple sugars. The proposed 20 MMgy plant would process 1,500 tons of trash per day, according to the company. Construction is expected to cost $100 million.

Because contracts weren't finalized by press time, neither company had selected a site within the county. They expect to begin permitting after contracts are finalized, with construction starting by the end of this year.