THE ARGUMENT FOR GOVERNMENT FUNDING OF BIOMETHANE PROCESSES

WHY BIOMETHANE IS THE FUEL OF ENERGY INDEPENDANCE

And the visionary plan one US company proposes for their market that will be subsidy free and force oil prices down to acceptable levels..

BY
Herman P. Miller III, PE, Pres.
Environmental Developers Inc.

In the United States today there are five major contenders for funding to produce “renewable” energy, they are: wind, solar, nuclear, and the bio-conversion processes that produce ethanol and biomethane.
In the treatise that follows you will learn in what manner and why each of these processes are important and demand our funding attention.

PREMISE:

It is my belief that our government should responsively fund research and development in all forms of energy such as wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, and coal, and in addition should look closely at other plausible technologies that are presented to it. This approach will allow the cream of these processes to rise to the top and that this is the only democratic way to prove their relative importance or disprove and permanently put to bed some of the widely popular but unscientific claims that some of its constituents make for their proposed energy programs, and develop viable suplementary energy sourcesto our primary energy source which will inevitably be biomethane.

Further, I predict that by 2020 you will be driving a bioelectric automobile and the term "waste" will no longer be the moniker of a disagreeable nuisance substance but will conotate a valuable byproduct of our daily living experience, and here is why:

WIND ENERGY:

Our government should fund wind energy research because windmills, their generators and control systems need to be a lot smaller, lighter, more efficient, more bird-proof and less expensive than they are today. We need to spur competition.
Small household wind turbins, for instance, should be so inexpensive and attractive that you simply can not afford not to have one or two of these architectual delights around the place to plug into any electric outlet to ease the load somewhere else around the place or run the meter backward while you sleep.

SOLAR ENERGY:

Our government should fund solar energy research because not only does it have the same problems that wind power has but also we need to know what will happen to our weather patterns when, instead of absorbing heat during the day and reradiating it back into the atmosphere at night as we do now, we use that energy as electrical power so that less returns to the atmosphere. Will large decentralized installations, located out in the desert, so negatively affect grid transmission costs as to render them impractical and/or where will be the balance between these large scale installations and local home and business installations?
Here again, competition on the small scale units alone will develop roofing materials that are photovoltaic and last longer than roofing materials do today, automatically easing your electric bill every time the sun shines through.

THE ELECTRICAL GRID:

We need an electrical grid (transmission line network) that is simple, clean, safe, and efficient. Ground burial not overhead transmission should be the law of the land today. Overhead high voltage transmission is neither safe from terrorist disruption nor is it sanitary from an environmental and esthetic point of view. Underground transmission costs have been estimated at ten times the cost of overhead towers and open lines. Innovation will bring these costs down. The Europeans have already moved in this direction. Weneed to start now.

WIND SOLAR BOTTOM LINE:

The wind doesn’t always blow when you need it and the sun doesn’t always shine when you need it. Neither of these two technologies has solved the problem of storage. How do we get the energy we need when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is not shining? To get electrical power from where the sun is shinning or the wind is blowing to the places where the sun is not shinning and the wind is not blowing would require a vastly more complicated electrical grid than we have today. We would have to wrap our country with high voltage copper wire until we looked from space like a ball of string.

These major factors alone will forever relegate wind and solar energy to an important but auxiliary, standby, or secondary role in our energy future.

NUCLEAR ENERGY:

Our government should not fund nuclear energy plants. We don’t need nuclear energy and Americans do not, as a whole, have the self-disciplined minds that it takes to safely operate nuclear energy plants as demonstrated by the recent satellite loss (2009) and other inexcusable mistakes NASA continues to make. However, our government should fund the development of any plausible technology that could eliminate the unacceptable practice of storing spent fuel rather than putting it to some useful purpose.

BIOMASS ENERGY (ETHANOL):

Our government should not continue funding of ethanol energy plants. Subsidizing their product in the market place should be brought to a halt as quickly as we can comfortably do so. Ethanol plants are the result of popularized bad science. Ethanol energy plants have not demonstrated economic feasibility and are a waste of valuable food stock and agricultural land. Wasting food that is desperately needed by starving millions disqualifies this technology as being renewable in the true sense of the word. Our government should, however, fund any ethanol technology that promises not to use feedstock from land that otherwise could be producing food while producing a price competitive product.

BIOMASS ENERGY(BIOMETHANE):

Our government should fund biomethane waste-to-energy plants. Biomethane plants and ethanol plants are completely different plant processes. The key difference is “WASTE”. Biomethane plants convert virtually any biodegradable waste product to energy while ethanol plants requirespecific agricultural products for their energy source. At the present time ethanol plants require feedstock that takes food producing land out of food production, an unacceptable consequence, while biomethane plants convert garbage, trash, and many other waste products to energy.

We produce in our country today more than four times the amount of biowaste than would be required to create the same equivalent energy as we now get from all the foreign oil that we import.

LANDFILL BIOMETHANE:

Our government should not fund landfill biomethane energy plants. You cannot imagine how repugnant it is for me to hear large companies advertise their green stars for operating landfill bioenergy plants. Not only do such operations not payback their capital costs but cannot pay for their own maintenance. A perfectly designed and operating landfill energy plant can never be even 10% efficient and the land that they fill remains structurally unstable and environmentally toxic for several generations. This green eyeshade approach to landfill energy is nothing more than advertising spin and political humbug. Few if any of the so called landfill energy plants are actually operative and those few that are leak gas prolifically and suffer continual equipment breakdowns caused by the dirty raw gas they produce. Most landfill energy operators end up flaring off (burning like a torch burns) their gas with the idea that the CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) component this creates is a less destructive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) than the CH4 (Methane) that it replaces, completely neglecting the H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide gas) that they have created and that is wandering across our countryside killing trees and taking the paint off houses, to say nothing about what it is doing to our lungs. Our government should outlaw all forms of landfill waste-to-energy operations just as fast as it can make VRAD© or similar legitimate biowaste plants available within reasonable trucking distances.

ENERGY SPRAWL

Every one of the processes discussed in this paper contributes both directly and indirectly to Energy Sprawl, using up our land in some cases at alarming rates, with the exception of VRAD©. A VRAD© biomethane plant in every possible scenario uses less land than the waste industry uses today. So Lets look at an example of a VRAD© plant that, as a complete package, including the weight station and tipping house, will snuggle easily into ten acres and handle all the waste for a large county in California.

BIOMETHANE PLANT EXAMPLE:

Stockton, California has an ideal location for a clean waste-to-energy plant like VRAD©. It is downtown, central to the production of waste, central to transportation, isolated by a freeway interchange on one side, a slough that branches off the river on another side and an industrial complex.  Since the late seventies, this land has been designated by the EPA as a Superfund Site that is plagued by an underground plumb of contaminated water that threatens to spread into wells in the southern part of the City. Recycling that toxic water through a VRAD© Plant would concentrate the toxins for treatment and return the water to usefulness. Stockton’s waterways are plagued by green algae blooms, in the summer due to lack of oxygen in its dead ended river channel, and water hyacinths grow prolifically in these waters fed by peat dust and agricultural runoff. A filter plant alongside the slough would remove these frustrating contaminants both of which make wonderful feedstock for energy production in a VRAD© Process, a truly win-win proposition.

Today, Stockton, with one of the West's foremost universities, vies for the foreclosure capital of the United States with an unemployment rate of over 10%, has a 185 foot toxic landfill mountain just six miles east of town that it is growing at an unprecedented rate by applying 1000 tons per day of its own garbage and trash along with another 1000 tons or so which it imports from its neighboring communities.

Our government should fund the $30 million projected cost for a 1000 ton per day VRAD© solid waste-to-energy pilot plant at this Stockton site. The US EPA should turn over this site to my company to develop it as the Biowaste Research Center of the West (BRCW). This Center will provide continually updated technology to the five thousand VRAD© Process plants we will build in partnership with local communities and local investors across the US.

Advantages:

1. The VRAD© Process provides the first and only environmentally pure solution to the trillions of tons of biodegradable waste created world-wide each day and this site rather than sitting idle will demonstrate to the world the viability and versatility of this technology.

2. This process plant and its research center will create 4500 green-collar jobs in Stockton, California and hundreds of thousands of new green-collar jobs in partner cities and waste centers across the US.

3. It will pump $250 million new green dollars per year into the Stockton economy and more than 15 million dollars per year into each partnered local economy.

4. VRAD technology can be efficiently jump started from current design to simultaneous design and construct programs as fast as qualified design-build contractors can be identified and engaged in open bidding.

5. Close coordination and communication between dozens of these design-build VRAD© projects will increase construction efficiencies and lower construction costs, as the numbers of plants grow.

6. Jobs created and the plants constructed can be put into operation in a matter of months not years.

7. Centralized basic and applied research backup provides virtual over-night dissemination of improved operating procedures and more robust and efficient bacteria strains can be supplied as fast as they are identified, developed, and proven.

8. Drastically reduces GHG emissions and is the most direct technological stepping stone toward a hydrogen economy.

9. Eliminates dangerous, toxic, and unstable landfills.

10. Provides a salable, dry, safe, strong building material for inexpensive brick blocks or as construction fill.

11. Provides 80,000 Gallons/Day or 1486.7 Acre Feet of distilled water per year to the local community, a rather important byproduct in some communities.

12. Eliminates completely our dependence on foreign oil.

13. Provides distributed energy that reduces load on electrical grid.

14. Eliminates terrorists’ abilities to shut down large sections of the US electrical grid.

15. Greatly reduces refuse derived health hazards and disease transmission problems.

16. Will eventually eliminate all waste source separation requirements.

17. Can eventually reduce or eliminate waste collection charges.

18. Is the key technology in the logical progression toward smaller, self sustaining, and independent environmentally pure communities.

20. Provides 24% annual return on the invested dollar in today's market.

21. Completely eliminates energy sprawl.

Disadvantages:

1. Requires the political will that our President Barack Obama voiced many times during his bid for election.

2. Requires $35 million seed money to kick it off.

WHAT IS THIS VRAD©?

VRAD© is the premier Waste-to-Energy Process in the World today and the only such process to include Carbon Capture Technology as one of its discrete functions. VRAD© is an acronym for Vacuum Retort Anaerobic Digestion. It is a process centered on the use of anaerobic bacteria for reducing or digesting biodegradable solids commonly called biosolids into several gasses. The VRAD© Process utilizes a particular microbial bacteria that is anaerobic, that is it lives in an airless or oxygen free environment and at a rather high or thermophillic temperature range (55oC), and is therefore referred to as thermophillic anaerobic bacteria. Thermophillic anaerobies are differentiated from mesophillic anaerobies (35oC) commonly used in digesters of wastewater and other biowaste plants by their temperature and their digestive speed which is approximately three times that of mesophiles. This factor reduces the size of the process to one-third of ordinary anaerobic processes. Thermophillic processes are harder to control than mesophillic processes as was discovered in the failures reported in experiments at Chicago and Los Angeles wastewater treatment plants and the EPA’s own experimental station which gave up after operational failures some fifteen years ago. A careful study of these experiments reveled to the author their inadequacies but did not keep the industry pundits from using these failures to declare that thermophillic operations would not work when I first introduced VRAD© some ten years ago. The Europeans knew better and now there are over 120 thermophillic based plants in Europe thus proving the author’s early research analysis that use of these microbes is practical and doable.

Vacuum Retort refers to the particular environment in which digestion takes place and uses the simple high school physics principle that water boils at a lower temperature at the lower atmospheric pressure of higher altitudes. In a VRAD© process not only do we take the gasses generated in the process of digestion off the top of the tower but we also take off the excess water and provide a distilled recyclable water product a step that others have not been able to provide. In addition to providing clean water VRAD© solves other problems that other process have ignored: The removal of contaminants from the methane gas primary energy product of these processes; Providing a pipeline pure bio or natural gas with greater thermal energy per cubic foot of any other process; Turning the small but destructive sulfur product of digestion into a useful crystalline form commonly known as Epson salts; Reducing the fifty to sixty percent undigested product of other plants to just five percent by the simple positioning of the bacteria in key locations in the process; The rendering of this last five percentile of undigested product as “safe” by making pasteurization a part of the process; and Last but not least the sequestering of all of the carbon dioxide product of digestion rather than releasing it to the atmosphere as do all other biowaste plants.

VRAD© scrubs, purifies, and separates the gas products by first neutralizing the hydro sulfurous acid product of the hydrogen sulfide gas and water vapor, then removing it as a salable crystalline salt byproduct and then taking advantage of the relative dissolution temperatures of the gasses in water. These process steps require only the proper application of chemical elements and compounds found within the process itself and result in a very low overhead process plant operation.  The maximum use of the basic principles of conduction, isolation and insulation result in a process that generates many times the energy that is required in its operation and optimizes the waste to energy conversion many times that of any other biomethane process in the world today.

FOLLOW THE MONEY:

VRAD© Process plants dotted here and there across the countryside in city centers, converting MSW (municipal solid waste) into energy; farm centers, converting manure, dead animals and other farm wastes into energy; and at large industrial complexes, including coal fired power plants, converting their biowaste products and other waste products such as fly-ash into useful byproducts, do not just put thousands of people to work building and operating these plants but they return a positive economic benefit to the communities that own them and supply the waste. Supplying these communities with CBM (Compressed BioMethane) the more pure equivalent of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). CBM now used extensively in Argentina and Brazil is our tomorrow’s car, truck, and bus fuel of economic choice; in electrical ower to the grid in the form of distributed energy that lowers transmission line costs and provides safety from terrorist attacks; while reducing collection transportation, sorting, and pickup costs.

Let us run through the numbers for the 1000 ton per day plant that I propose for the City of Stockton:

*I make some practical/common assumptions which you may wish to question.

Given: 1000 T/D MSW (No source sorting)

Assume*: 35% Water (From garbage and contaminated water)

Leaving: 65% Solids = 650 T/D Total Solids

Assume*: 60% Biodegradable fraction of Total Solids

Leaving: 350 T/D Biosolids

Assume*: 95% Biodegradation efficiency

Leaving: 332.5 T/D or 665,000 Lb/D Biomass converted in VRAD© Process

Given: 15 Cu.Ft. Raw Digester Gas Produced per pound of biomass converted.

Leaving: 9,975,000 Cu.Ft. Raw Gas Produced.

Note: It is important to point out here that not only do all other processes today only get 55% conversion vs. VRAD©’s 95%, but this is the end of their process leaving all of the gasses mixed together to be mostinefficiently burned for energy and released as greenhouse gasses.

Given: Raw Gas consists of 65% CH4 (Methane), 33% CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), 2% H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide), and a few trace elements of no particular significance at this point in time but definitely of interest in future research.

Note: Not only do all other processes release all of this carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but they also release the hydrogen sulfide gas which ionizes in the vapor content of the mix and forms a most potent acidic vapor that destroys engines, people, and virtually everything that gets in its path. The VRAD© process eliminates this possibility by neutralizing and precipitating the product in crystal form.

Given: 65% Methane separated from the 9,975,000 Cu.Ft. Raw Gas

Produces: 6,483,750 Cu.Ft. Methane

Given: 1000 Btu/Cu.Ft. Methane

Provides: 6,483,750,000 Gross Btu/D Clean Energy

Given:100,000 Btu = One Therm Heat Energy

Producing: 64,837.5 Gross Therms/Day

Less: 15% Process Heat and Cooling Requirement

Provides: 55,111.875 Therms/D for Sale

Given: Today’s Natural Gas City Gate Rate of $0.776 per Therm

Provides: $42,766.82 per Day Income

Assume*: $20,000.00 per day Labor and G&A OH

Provides: $22,766.82/Day ROI (return on investment)

Or $8,309,889.30 per Year which we will apply along with the income from our other partnerships across the country to build and operate a $500 Million Research Facility at the same site, employing 2500 people and providing space for a number of universities to establish field stations, where they learn and disseminate the technology by constructing and operating smaller research reactors in the 21st century’s new frontier and push toward microbiological excellence in the United States.

WHY ALL THIS ADDITIONAL RESEARCH:

The above account of the VRAD© Process may have given you the idea that we have solved all the problems. That is far from the case. We are just getting started. Remember, for instance, in our 1000T/D example, that there are 317.5 T/D inert and pasteurized solids that either still go to a new clean landfill, made into construction blocks, or sold as prime fill for construction purposes meeting the EPA safety standards as being pasteurized. This "dirt" consists of small dry particles of inert earthen rock, sand, glass, iron, steel, copper, precious metals and hundreds and possibly thousands of other substances that may be segrgated into value added products and that we need to learn how to identify, isolate, separate, and sell into their respective markets to complete the cycle of the earth’s resources economically and efficiently.

We need to learn how to more efficiently utilize the various strains of bacteria available under the general heading of thermophillic in the VRAD© process as well as understand a whole lot more about the possibilities of extremeophillic bacteria, i.e. bacteria that work at extremes of pressure and temperature and we must learn how to practically apply their abilities. The VRAD© process is uniquely designed and readily adaptable to this research and the practical application of this research without modification to its basic construction and operation s an energy producing plant.

Most important, while the VRAD© Processes sequestering of Carbon Dioxide is a breakthrough, sequestering Carbon Dioxide is not enough. Just selling it to soft drink manufactures is unacceptable. we need to learn how to convert this GHG into other more useful and beneficial byproducts of VRAD©, including the expansion on earlier laboratory research, by others, that concluded, that a product suitable for use as road surfacing can be produced by the application of certain low cost additives to the anaerobic process for which VRAD© is uniquely suited. In the meantime, we need to intensify our efforts to reach an international agreement upon the most ecological way in which we provide long term storage for this sequestered GHG.

We must learn how to use VRAD© to make the coal industry clean and to develop new substances and products by working with our microbiological community, a community of such tiny microbes whose body sizes are in the order of one micron (one-millionth of an inch) and whose life-spans are in the terms of minutes. These microbes, found at the very bottom of the human genome, so important and so profoundly complex, have given us hope that we can tempt them into mutating into workers for hundreds if not thousands of new job applications.

You have now completed ENERGY 201, a course requirement for informed political and environmental activists and progressive thinkers, planners, and lawmakers who will be instrumental in defining our country's long range energy future.

BACKGROUND AND/OR SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

WHO IS THIS HERMAN MILLER AND WHY DO I MATTER:

An admitted loner and super inquisatarian with enough fear to barely stay alive; started playing with bugs and batteries by age seven and by age nine was earing enough money to keep these studies alive. In my many years I have worked, learned and/or studied as a mechanic, plumber, engineer, inventor, technician, manager, business owner, pilot, diver, scientist, board member, corporate officer, carpenter, shipbuilder, aircraft mechanic, inspector, designer, draftsman, machinist, business man, accountant, entrepreneur, sailor, production manager, marketer, chemist, and butcher; just to name the more obvious. I am not a pilot’s pilot yet I flew my own airplane around the world (1966). I am not an inventor’s inventor yet I conceived, produced, ma0nufactured, and marketed the world’s first completely solid-state aircraft radio transceiver when the big company gurus of the industry said it could not be done (1960). The point being that I have an intensely inquisitive, analytical, and perceptive mind with the capacity to delve as deeply as required to solve any problem that interests me and I am a visionary with a lot of interests. Typically, I have said, “A shoe store would really go good on that corner.”, and sure enough five years later a thriving shoe store was observed on that corner (1945). But I am not a visionary’s visionary, nor do I claim any special powers of divination. I am just an ordinary guy that has the capacity to really pay attention when a problem presents itself that peaks his interest. And, I come by it honestly. My grandfather developed a 42 acre section of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with all the utilities underground (Bellevue Park 1910).

MY WASTE-TO-ENERGY BACKGROUND:

The forty years that it has taken me to develop the process we call VRAD© has been the most rewarding experience of my life. A work/self-study program during which time I made my living being involved in the various aspects of waste and energy almost exclusively.

Surviving with the shirt on my back from a terrible fire that destroyed my manufacturing plant and fighting the depression that set in after losing something that has been my life 18/7 for some seventeen years, I returned to university life. Virtually equally interested and expperienced in all of the engineering sciences I chose electrical because I believed it would have made my father, an electronic early bird, proud to know I had followed his footsteps and because I considered it one of the most disciplined of the physical engineering sciences.

Graduating and living on my boat in Stockton and with no more desire for Silicon Valley living I stuck my sheepskin in my back pocket and dubbing down my resume I took a six month job as a construction inspectorat the local sewer plant. I had stepped back into the dark ages. Overnight I was a genius. It was intriguing. I stayed five years then hung out my own shingle working under the tri-cornered hat of construction manager, resident engineer and construction inspector on waste and power plants in the San Joaquin Valley, all the while developing the process that you will get to know and recognize as VRAD©.

ONE MORE THING:

This is the first time I have made public the monetary numbers generated by just the sale of biomethane from the VRAD© Process. I am well aware that publishing these figures will bring to my door all the get rich quick, greedy, unprincipled characters out to make a fast buck that can dig themselves out of the mire in which they are already entrenched. So let me be clear, I am a capitalist, an industrialist, and an entrepreneur but I am a responsible capitalist, industrialist and entrepreneur. Once a man’s personal income hits the mid six figures he can live as well and any responsible man should need or care to live and he needs in some way to give anything over that to the weaker and less fortunate of the US and the world. No one in my company or my associated companies will ever make more than five hundred thousand dollars a year (year 2000 dollars) in personal income or work for less than $10/hour, nor will any of these companies ever pay dividends in excess of ten percent.

One of the reasons that the culture of the United States has gravitated in the direction of greed and the attendant irresponsibility that caused our present economic downturn is that people started to get the idea that the money came before excellence. We started worshiping people who made money, no matter how they made it, instead of people who made great accomplishments and/or sacrifices for their fellow man. We need to structure our culture away from greed and the corruption that inevitably follows and toward good normal healthily challenged living where love and fellowship mean more than money, false pride and prestige. Lobbyists and donors would not allow lawmakers to raise the taxes on those making more than a half a million a year to ninety-nine percent but in my own little way as a responsible businessman I can help effect this change we desperately need in the US today. You can help too. Ask the companies you do business with how much they pay there executives. Ask them what their executive pay policy is and tell them you prefer to do business with companies that limit executive pay.

If we are to save and preserve our Country's industrial mite we all must become activists. This is especiably true now that all taxpayers own shares in some of our biggest corporations. Writing to the Board of Directors of these newly reorganized companies and expressing your view will go a long way to get their attention and spur the actions they need to take.

ASK A QUESTION: Would you like to ask a question? Send an e-mail to HPMiller3D@aol.com and put VRAD QUESTION in the Subject Line.