A win-win situation for the local government, utilities, and industry.
Gary C. Young is a consulting engineer and founder of GYCO Inc., which does process and project engineering, as well as research and development in the process industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ethanol plants either are operating, under construction, or planned for several areas in the Midwest. These same areas also have municipal solid waste (MSW) produced daily in an existing landfill. In addition, these areas have a need for establishing or extending a landfill.
As an alternative to the existing concept of a landfill, plasma-arc technology has been applied to the treatment of MSW. Known as plasma-arc gasification for the treatment of MSW, this recent development would eliminate or minimize the need for a landfill.
Plasma-arc gasification can generate an abundant amount of energy and electricity, or steam. Nearby ethanol plants using corn require electricity and a large amount of steam for fermentation, distillation, and drying operations.
In this article, we offer a preliminary economic analysis of a joint process operation for a typical ethanol plant using corn, with a capacity of 50 million gallons/year with a plasma-arc plant processing MSW. A simplified schematic for such a hybrid process (combined plasma-arc plant and ethanol plant) is shown below.