An advanced technology with enormous potential in the sustainable energy sector will be built and tested at a domestic military base, thanks to a $1.6 million grant announced recently by the combined EPA and Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP). The grant supports further development of SUNY Cobleskill’s rotary gasifier, initially funded by a joint EPA and DOD program in 2008, which turns most combustible waste into a clean-burning gas. SUNY Cobleskill professors Paul Amodeo and David Waage have refined the gasifier to a point of unparalleled efficiency. This endeavor is one of only thirty-seven new ESTCP projects slated to begin in 2018.
The grant supports building and testing a fully automated, portable rotary gasifier waste-to-energy system at a domestic military base. The testing period will demonstrate the unit’s operability by troop personnel for conversion of non-hazardous waste into electricity, reducing the liquid fuel used to generate electrical power by at least fifty percent. Researchers expect to see a net energy gain and the transformation of waste from a liability to a resource. The lightweight, flexible, and safe SUNY Cobleskill gasifier could replace fuel-hungry incinerators at military bases worldwide. It is particularly suitable for use at remote Forward Operating Bases.
“Based on our 100-year practice of leading in sustainable management of environmental resources combined with state-of-the art technology, SUNY Cobleskill once again sets the standard with a global scope” said Dr. Marion A. Terenzio, President of SUNY Cobleskill. “We are committed to continuing our tradition of safeguarding the environment while advancing education.”
Thanks to a series of technical innovations, the gasifier developed by Waage and Amodeo is cleaner, more efficient, and more convenient than its predecessors. From almost any combustible material it produces fuel that is between two and five times richer in BTU (British thermal unit) value than conventional synthetic gas. When burned, the fuel is “orders of magnitude” cleaner than pure diesel. It also produces ash, which can be used in building materials like cement.
The machine they built at SUNY Cobleskill can produce 60 kilowatts of power a day from two tons of trash, enough to power about 50 standard American homes. There is tremendous potential for the gasifier in domestic and community use.
“We would like to refine the process to the point that we don’t just prevent material from going into the landfills, but maybe mine material from the landfills,” Amodeo said. “You can take the big mountains that they’re making and start reversing the process.”