In a move that displays solid confidence in a plasma gasification technology patented by Bend, Ore.-based InEnTec, Waste Management Inc. has transitioned from a joint venture investment with the company to an equity position.
The switch comes two years after the companies formed S4 Energy Solutions, the brand under which they have built a municipal solid waste (MSW) gasification plant at the Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Ore. The 25-ton-per-day facility is now complete, says Wes Muir, Waste Management spokesman. It has approval to begin operations, and the companies are currently ramping up production, he adds.
The Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) technology was patented by the company’s founders in 1995, based on U.S. DOE-sponsored research that began four years earlier. The process uses plasma gas to super heat waste materials that have been fed into a closed chamber. The extreme heat—between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit—rearranges the molecular structure of the waste and transforms organic materials into syngas for conversion into electricity or liquid fuels such as ethanol or diesel. In the next stage, inorganic materials are recycled into other products.
Waste Management is now one of the company’s largest shareholders, says Karl Schoene, president and CEO of InEnTec. According to paperwork filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, the equity position is valued at $22.5 million.
Waste Management has additional investments in thermal conversion technology companies including Enerkem Inc., Terrabon Inc. and Agilyx. Separate from its demonstration project venture with Waste Management, InEnTec has contracted with Fulcrum Bioenergy Inc. to provide its PEM technology for conversion of MSW into 10.5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol at Fulcrum’s proposed Sierra BioFuels plant to be located near Reno.