Entrepreneur's plants cook wastes into oil 

PHILADELPHIA The versatile turkey has been chopped, pressed, and processed into foods as diverse as burgers and bacon. Now a Long Island entrepreneur wants to put a turkey in your tank.

Brian S. Appel, chief executive of Changing World Technologies, has developed a process for cooking and pressurizing waste turkey parts and lots of other things into a golden liquid that can be refined into heating oil, diesel fuel, or gasoline.

He has attracted the attention of former CIA Director James Woolsey, who says the process can reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. An adviser to Appel's West Hempstead, N.Y., company, Woolsey traveled to Philadelphia last month for a demonstration of how the process could turn tires into oil.

Appel's process, called thermal depolymerization, is essentially an accelerated version of "the oldest of technologies, one that the Earth uses when it puts vegetables and dinosaurs under pressure" to form petroleum deposits, Woolsey said.

A $20 million facility at ConAgra's Butterball turkey plant in Carthage, Mo., is undergoing testing and is expected to start using the technique by the end of May, said Terry Adams, chief technology officer for Changing World Technologies. The plant ultimately will grind up, heat, pressurize, and process 200 tons a day of leftover turkey innards, bones, feathers, fats, and grease enough to produce 600 barrels of oil daily, officials say.

Appel recently showed off the techniques at a pilot plant at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center. In one end went tires, ground to quarter-inch bits by a giant industrial shredder. Out the other end came a caramel-colored liquid that resembles crude oil. The plants can sell the oil to fuel blenders for use in home heating or power-generating fuel. Refineries could process it as they do crude oil. Utilities could burn it for power. The process will digest just about anything: garbage, medical waste, hog manure, old tires.

Robert C. Brown, an engineering professor at the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies at Iowa State University, said scientists have known for years how to use thermal depolymerization to convert waste into energy. The problem, he said, is cost.

Biological materials, like turkey byproducts, contain water that must be removed before they can be turned into fuel. Brown said biomatter also contains oxygen, which gives it less explosive kick than fossil fuels. "I'd be surprised if they can do it at a good price," he said.

Appel acknowledged his process isn't competitive with crude oil. The Missouri plant will need to spend $15 a barrel to turn turkey waste into oil, compared with about $13 a barrel for small exploration and production companies and $5 for a major oil company, he said. Appel, 44, said the cost will fall as more plants are built. He is also pushing Congress for a clean-fuel subsidy to help it compete.

"If we take the plastics and the tires and the fats and the bones and we turn that into fuels, that will mean much less fossil fuel will need to be dug up out of the ground," Appel said.

Appel said byproducts from the process can be recycled: water pumped into a community water treatment facility, carbon and minerals sold to make tires and fertilizer, and gases like methane piped to generate the plant's electricity.

Environmental officials have shown interest. In 2001, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a $5 million grant to help develop the Missouri plant.

Changing World Technologies and the $27 billion ConAgra Foods conglomerate formed a partnership to share the rest of the $20 million cost and continue to commercialize the technique. ConAgra sees it not only as a business opportunity but also as a way to get rid of its own waste, said company spokeswoman Julie DeYoung.

Appel said 11 more projects are planned, including ones at a ConAgra turkey plant in Longmont, Colo.; a poultry plant in Enterprise, Ala.; and an onion dehydration plant in Fernley, Nev. The three projects received nearly $10 million in grants from the Department of Energy.

Original source: Associated Press
Submit by CEIN  News on 21.05.2003