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With landfill closure imminent, ACUA explores waste transformation technologies

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — With the Atlantic County Department of Public Utilities landfill site set to close in the next few years, officials are looking for new ways to dispose of waste, especially through new “waste transformation” technologies.

Among the new technologies available are the combination of electricity and high temperatures in plasma gasification, or anaerobic digestion, which sorts waste to remove recyclables and composts what remains or leaves waste-derived fuel. process. As part of the process, the trash left behind could be as little as one-tenth of the trash currently in landfills.

All of these new forms of converting waste into energy go beyond current methods, said Matt DeNafo, ACUA’s vice president of centralized maintenance and asset management.

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“When you hear waste energy, you think of incineration, which is really different from waste transformation today,” DeNafo said last week.

However, there are challenges that must be overcome first, such as securing permits and, more importantly, reducing the cost of the new technology.

“We can get aviation permits, we can build technology, and technology works, but it’s not cost-effective, and if we find a cheap way to dispose of the waste, what does it mean to do it?” We don’t have one,” Denafo told the ACUA Board of Directors on Sept. 15.

Even with successful demonstration projects that address these economic, environmental, legal, and technical issues, scaling from demonstration to full-scale operations can be challenging.

“A lot of these technologies were developed from demonstration projects and then from very big, very fast things, without success,” added DeNafo.

Regardless, utility authorities need to find new ways to manage waste collection. The Egg Harbor Township landfill is scheduled to reach capacity and close in 2027.

new science and technology

ACUA officials say some new technologies can reduce the mass that needs to be placed in landfills by 80% to 90%. It also avoids some of the greenhouse gas emissions and harmful by-products such as methane that come from landfills.

ACUA is no stranger to attempts to bring waste diversion to the county. We started working with NRG Energy in 2008, signing a contract with NRG to develop a waste conversion project. DeNafo said it has received or is ready to receive permits from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for all but the aviation permit. According to DeNafo, new NRG management ultimately decided against the project, dashing any prospects of introducing the new waste-conversion technology to the county.

Despite the challenges facing the industry, DeNafo said he was inspired by the progress of various projects showcased at the Waste Transformation Technology Conference & Trade Show he attended earlier this year. He said representatives from several large organizations were present, including representatives from Google and the US Department of Defense. There were presentations from various companies across the country, including California, Nevada, New York, and Oregon. These companies faced some of the challenges he presented, but he said they showed how waste conversion projects are viable and successful in Atlantic County.

For example, one company produced syngas as an output that could be further refined into jet fuel. DeNafo said the process could benefit his ACUA because of its facility’s proximity to Atlantic City International Airport. The Atlantic County Economic Union has been committed to making the aerospace industry central to the region’s future development.

ACUA President Rick Dovey said projects are already underway that could help with the future transition to waste conversion. He said ACUA signed a deal with South Jersey Industries in June to convert emissions from landfills into renewable natural gas. The project includes his $30 million facility to be developed by South Jersey Industries, which will divert emissions used in less profitable operations directly into power generation. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, will help guarantee federal subsidies for renewable natural gas, further strengthening the deal to the current electricity generation pact. Dovey said the project could be operational by 2024 and will benefit local governments, taxpayers and ultimately future waste transformation projects.

As the shift to new waste conversion technologies continues, authorities are trying to find ways forward for that immediate future.

ACUA has issued a Request for Proposals for Solid Waste Transportation and Disposal within the County, which resulted in one bid being submitted, but the agency may reject the bid and issue another Request for Proposals. There is a nature. Given the significant drop in oil and gas prices over the past few months, ACUA had considered working with the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority and the Cumberland County Improvement Authority, but Mr Dovey , said those officials were no longer politically comfortable going forward with the deal as the debate over the future of waste disposal in the county escalated. .

transfer station

A bid and exploration for waste diversion will take place as discussions continue over a proposed rail transit station for construction and demolition debris waste. A planned transfer station on West Washington Avenue, far away in Pleasantville, has sparked significant controversy. He claims sending it to an Ohio landfill will help prepare the county for the impending ACUA landfill closure. points out they’re not done yet, but they claim they’re cheaper than ACUA’s alternatives.

DiNatale is critical of ACUA’s pursuit of new waste conversion methods as a “pie in the sky” idea similar to the flying cars on the TV show The Jetsons. He cited exorbitant costs and a lack of a successful track record.

“Nothing has been proven,” said DiNatale. “I don’t know how they get around it.”

ACUA promotes the development of local waste conversion technologies. If the method is decided, a request for proposal will be issued by January next year to solicit bids for the project, and the contract will be signed in April. Then within a few years the project will start.

“Sooner or later these technologies will be approved and the economics will be there,” Dovey said Thursday, citing companies in the Los Angeles area that are considering the concept. “They know this will eventually be the answer.”

Contact Chris Doyle