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AgroWaste to Oil a Growing Market 472

EvilTwinSkippy writes "Last May Slashdot covered the story of Changing World Tech's opening of a plant that converts agricultural waste to oil. Fortune magazine has picked up the story, and followed up on their success. Apparently the turkey guts are not as profitable to recycle as hoped, the company paying $30-$40/ton for animal offal. They are producing diesel fuel at $80/barrel (compared to $50/barrel for petroleum derived diesel). However, the plant has been successful enough to spawn ventures in Europe and the U.S. A pilot plant in Philadelphia has successfully used the process to safely break down and extract oil from sewage, medical waste, electronics, even leftovers from petroleum refining. The solids are metal, pure carbon, and fertilizer. And aside from gas and oil, the only other thing the system produces otherwise is sterile water."
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AgroWaste to Oil a Growing Market

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  • Economical? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by (861779)
    Doesn't this process consume more energy than it produces?
    • Re:Economical? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:41PM (#11748474) Homepage Journal
      I don't know about cases like medical waste or electronics, but when it's using turkey guts or other agricultural waste as a feedstock, it is able to run itself off the natural gas produced, leaving crude oil as an energy-producing product.
      • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:10PM (#11748868) Homepage
        Not to mention that a process can waste far more energy than goes into it and still be viable - for example, the liquifaction of coal during WWII which partly powered the Nazi war machine. The only important thing is whether you can put into your car (or tank or whatever) the end product, when you couldn't the input products.

        I think that this process has the following applications:

        1) Disposal of waste that costs more than 30$ per barrel to dispose of as-is.

        2) Creation of oil in remote locations from waste - e.g., bringing plane flights of petroleum to a remote village in the canadian or siberian wilderness might make it cost more than 80$/barrel. The same would hold true on an even greater scale with antarctic coal.

        3) Ensuring that there never will be an overly dramatic "oil shock" - while it wasn't a realistic prospect anyways, the ability to turn essentially anything organic (even people - soylent diesel, anyone? :) ) into oil for 80$ per barrel pretty much sets that as an upper limit on costs. And as tech advances, that price per barrel will drop.

        4) Being a "clean fuel" source. Since all of the carbon involved was already in the system, there's no net increase in CO2.

        Any other benefits?
        • Re:Economical? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arivanov (12034)
          80$ per barrel is still considerably less then the retail price of diesel in the UK and many other countries. This is due to the tax on diesel. In most of these countries the tax on renewable fuel is lower and the removal of agricultural waste is more expensive as well, so it may end up being economically feasible.

          So numbers which do not add up in the US may in fact add up nicely in the UK, Japan or some of the European countries. And from what I read in the article this is exactly what the company is plan
        • Re:Economical? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)
          Actually, rereading the article, the turkey guts are costing 15-20$ of the difference. So, it's really only about 10-15$ a gallon away from normal diesel prices. Then, factor in a biofuels tax break like ethanol gets (even conventional oil companies have a number of significant tax breaks), and you're competitive. You just need a free or cheap feedstock, and even this first-generation plant will be efficient.
        • Re:Economical? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gessel (310103) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:05PM (#11750723) Homepage
          It's a useful minor energy source, but primarily it's good for converting a stinky, unpleasant, difficult to handle waste stream into something useful. There's simply not enough food waste to supply the system. Growing targeted crops would be absurdly inefficient. At best photosynthesis is 2.5% efficient, compared to 12% for commercially available solar panels. Take system inefficiencies in the stream from sunlight to depolymerizable crop and there isn't enough arable land on earth to meet our energy demands.

          There's a basic energy balance concept that seems to escape most supposedly intelligent pundits on this issue. It's the sort of thing you're supposed to learn in 7th grade with rate problems: the world is a closed system, with energy in and energy out. Energy in comes from the sun, energy out is radiated heat. Over time there has been very slightly more energy in than out, which is stored as fossil fuels.

          Ignoring the consequences of liberating all the CO2 ever captured in the history of the world over the next century, there's neither enough fossil fuel to last nor enough arable land to build an economy around a sustainable biofuel stream.

          But Solar is trivial. It easily answers the world's energy needs at an entirely manageable cost.

          A 16kWh/day (5.8E3 kWh/y) complete grid tie system costs $15k (12% efficient BP panels). 2E10 of these systems would power the whole world (volume discount?) which would cost $3.1E14 at today's retail which is roughly the GDP of the world for 7.5 years. Now figure you're asking BP to manufacture 4E11 solar panels... that's 400,000,000,000 panels. Maybe they'd be bit cheaper at that volume.

          But we can reasonably assume typical cost reductions and a combination of PV and solar heating; the world uses 1.2E14 total kwh/year for all purposes, but only 1.3E13 kWh global consumption of electricity. If we replaced only electricity consumption for the whole world at RETAIL prices it would cost only 70% of the world GDP for one year and require only 4E10 panels and 5.6E10 square meters of land area - out of 1.3E14 available in the world, or 0.04% of the planet's land (0.4% to replace all energy consumed for all reasons with PV).

          The US used 2.8E13 kWh total energy in all forms last year (3.6E12 kWh electricity) which would require 9.6E10 solar panels to generate or 1.3E11 square meters and $7.2E13 at retail. This would occupy 1.4% of our land area of 9.4E12 square meters..

          We've paved 1.6E11 square meters: that is we've subsidized the auto and petroleum industry with a welfare gift of 1.7% of the total land area of the nation, more than it would take to be entirely energy independent.

          Continuing the car comparison, our roadways, taxpayer financed at a cost of about $2M/lane mile or $340/sq meter, cost $1.9E13 in today's dollars compared to $7.2E13 to convert the entire country's entire energy use to PV. Realistically we'd convert only the electricity consumption of 3.6E12 kWh at $9.3E12 at RETAIL, less than half of what we taxpayers have given the auto and oil industry, not including the value of the real estate.

          Converting the entire world to PV entirely as a collective effort would piss off the libertarians and the oil magnates (generally for different reasons) but doing so would cost less than the corporate welfare we've dumped on the oil and auto industries. Even today it's hardly insurmountable. Compared to the value of a zero emissions, entirely sustainable energy economy, it's trivial.

          One argument I had with a friend about our capture of the Iraqi oil was over the counter argument presented by some math challenged conservative pundits (are any conservative pundits not math challenged?) that the oil costs would not offset the cost of taking Iraq, as if the suggestion that we are there to protect our oil was somehow ludicrous.

          This argument ignores the most obvious counter that taxpayers are footing the $200B bill while Haliburton takes the profits, which before the invasion were going to Fr
          • Re:Economical? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Rei (128717)
            >There's simply not enough food waste to supply the system.

            You're kidding right? Here in Iowa, we're having huge problems with all of the ag waste that we don't know how to get rid of. Hog farming alone is posing a serious threat to our rivers, as they can't use the *manure* fast enough (natural fertilizer, in the corn belt, and they can't even use that fast enough!).

            > Growing targeted crops would be absurdly inefficient. At best photosynthesis
            > is 2.5% efficient, compared to 12% for commercial
    • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:42PM (#11748489)
      No, I wrote a report on this company last year for a college assignment. This process consumes less energy than it produces, but not enough to be economical yet. Really the only benifit from it now is disposal of organic waste as the oil produced isnt cost effective for the market yet.
    • Re:Economical? (Score:3, Informative)

      by syphax (189065)
      From TFA: []

      Thermal depolymerization, Appel says, has proved to be 85 percent energy efficient for complex feedstocks, such as turkey offal: "That means for every 100 Btus in the feedstock, we use only 15 Btus to run the process." He contends the efficiency is even better for relatively dry raw materials, such as plastics.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      This has value even if it consumes energy in the process. The 'beauty' of diesel/gas/petrol is that the energy is portable; you can put it into a gas tank and consume it hundreds of miles away. While it might not make sense to take this diesel and put it in a power plant, it does make sense to pipe it to a gas station. Same goes for fuel cells.

      Frankly, I'd love to see the Dakotas were turned into solar/wind farms with chicken crapping farms under them, piping the feces into contraptions that turned it i
    • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Overt Coward (19347) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:46PM (#11748550) Homepage
      Yes, and no.

      No process can be 100% (or more) efficient -- the CWT process is about 80%-85% efficient. That means that the remaining energy is turned to waste, so it obviously produces less energy at the end than when it started.

      However, when looking at usable energy, the system is highly efficient. Most of the energy in the CWT comes from the energy stored in the "feedstock" (turkey guts, etc.). This is energy that would normally be slowly released as waste energy as the feedstocks decomposed. instead, this process turns that energy into useful products, primarily diesel fuel. Removing the energy from the feedstock, the process produces about 4-5 times more usable energy than it uses.

      • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:52PM (#11748626) Homepage Journal
        And to make things even better, the energy the process requires comes from natural gas produced in the later stages of the thermal depolymerization process. The only energy a TDP plant needs is an initial shot of natural gas to get things going, and an electical supply for such things as controlling valves and running sensors.
    • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ThosLives (686517) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:53PM (#11748647) Journal
      Yes, but so does every other process in the known universe(*). The point is that they are taking "waste" and getting use out of it. This wouldn't be a net energy "source" like drilled oil, but it would be an energy currency like hydrogen. The advantage here is that, since it is hydrocarbons they are producing, you can use it in manufacturing of plastics, etc.; hydrogen's not a useful construction resource (until metallic hydrogen [] becomes practical, that is).

      With the volatility of crude oil the way it is (heck, it's gone up over 5% today!) for no logical reason (they cite "unseasonably cold weather in the northeast US and Britain" - winter is always cold, and our reserves are higher than they were last year - go figure), any other alternatives that don't require a huge infrastructure change are welcome. Producing "petroleum" from waste is potentially a great way to reduce the volatility of crude oil.

      It does nothing, though, to address the issues of using a carbon-based energy currency and the CO2 byproducts from that. It's definitely a novel idea, and the sooner we develop alternatives the better (it's a whole lot more difficult to develop alternatives when your reserves are depleted due to increased periodic costs - i.e., higher cost for crude oil).

      * As my physics prof put it: "The first law says the best you can do is break even, and the second law says you can't even come close."

      • Re:Economical? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rei (128717) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:01PM (#11748765) Homepage
        Actually, it does address the fact that there's CO2 byproducts: It's recycled carbon. The problem with using petroleum pumped up from the depths was that this was carbon that was locked up. If we grow plants, turn them into oil, and then burn them, the net change in CO2 is zero.
      • RECYCLING (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cryptochrome (303529)
        This is a great idea.

        This is not making energy from nothing. This is capturing energy that would have normally gone to waste. Even better, it is capturing the energy in a highly useful form, oil.

        You are correct that although what goes out may come right back in, energy will be gradually lost in the process. You still need a net input of energy. That could come out of the ground as it does now, in which case we would only be slowing down our mad dash to turn all the buried carbon in the world back into
    • Re:Economical? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sunspot42 (455706) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:07PM (#11749518)

      Doesn't this process consume more energy than it produces?

      Depends on how you look at it, I suppose. Looks like they are getting more energy out of the recycling process than they're putting into it, which is a plus. OTOH, everything they're recycling ultimately took a lot of oil to produce, and they're not able to turn most of that back into oil.

      I mean, think about it with just the turkeys. In order to raise a bunch of turkeys, it takes oil to get oil out of the ground. Then it takes oil to transport the oil to the United States. Then it takes oil to refine that oil into gas or other fuel. Then it takes oil to transport that fuel to its destination. Then the fuel is used in a tractor - which took a ton of oil to make - to grow the grain that the turkeys are fed. Oh, and the crops are fertilized with oil-derived fertilizers, so there's more oil dumped in the system. The grain is then harvested, consuming more fuel, processed and transported to where the turkeys are being raised. It took oil to build the factory farm where the turkeys are being raised, and they're fed a steady stream of pharmaceuticals that were made from and transported by oil. The turkeys are then slaughtered (they may be transported first, using oil), processed and typically frozen. They're then transported, in giant oil-gulping refrigerated trucks, wrapped in oil (plastic), to the local Albertsons. There, suburban housewives show up in their oil-guzzling SUV's to lug the birds home.

      Now, even if you were able to convert all of the unused bits of the turkeys and their waste to oil or some other fuel at 100% efficiency, you still would only produce a fraction of the oil it took to raise those turkeys in the first place. That leaves a tremendous energy gap to be addressed, and we don't have any technology in place or on the horizon capable of filling that void. (Please, don't say "nuclear" anybody. If we tried to replace our petroleum consumption with nuclear, we'd rapidly run out of uranium and be left with a lot of dead nuclear plants. And South Africa, that bastion of political and social stability, has the world's largest reserves of uranium. We'd just be trading our problems in the Middle East for a whole new set of problems.)

      Technologies like this waste-to-oil recycling will help to boost overall energy efficiency a teeny little bit, but they won't come close to providing a substitute for our colossal consumption of petroleum. Remember too, these technologies take oil to develop and construct, and that oil is about to become far more expensive, making these technologies less and less efficient as a result. Unfortunately, global demand continues to skyrocket, while global supply may well have peaked (thanks to political instability, if nothing else). This does not bode well for our oil-based civilization.

  • by Roadkills-R-Us (122219) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:38PM (#11748443) Homepage
    Does that mean it can't reproduce?
  • good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:39PM (#11748449)
    at least we know there will be a cap of $80 usd for the barrel of oil.
    • Nope. Economic reality does not work that way. A company is also supposed to be profitable, thus..

      And besides, I doubt there are enough turkeys to make this thing work in very large scale...

      • My guess that around Thanksgiving, there will be a huge surplus of turkey's to use.

        So cheaper fuel in the fall season?
    • at least we know there will be a cap of $80 usd for the barrel of oil.

      You forget inflation: when the barrel reaches 80 of today's greenbacks, it'll already cost like 100 of tomorrow's dollars or something.

      Then again, another conflict against the Axis of Evil[tm] and the barrel could reach 80 of today's dollars very quickly anyway...
    • Well, once oil goes above $80, they can raise their price to match. They can then take their large profit and reinvest in more plants to produce this stuff. This would allow them to have quite rapid expansion. Once they reach a certain number of plants and income, they may choose to reduce their prices, or they may not.

      The thing is, they don't make enough of the stuff to justify under cutting petro oil. Even at $80 a barrel now, they are able to sell the stuff to environmental types. They would likely not
  • SEWAGE! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Evil W1zard (832703) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:39PM (#11748457) Journal
    Well I have the perfect marketing slogan for this! We can call it STOOL FUEL, Straight from people's butts into your engines.
  • Cost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nickirelan (775855) <> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:39PM (#11748458)
    It would be a great idea if it was cheaper. Maybe other natural ingredients will help bring the price down.
    • Re:Cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Carnildo (712617) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:44PM (#11748523) Homepage Journal
      Oil prices are rising. A 50% rise is sufficient to make this profitable, and in the mean time, it's a good way to get rid of hard-to-handle wastes like worn-out tires and used motor oil.
      • Re:Cost (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Overt Coward (19347) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:52PM (#11748643) Homepage
        Two things could make this economical in a hurry:

        1. Due to problems like Mad Cow disease, many countries have banned feeding animal waste to animals. The U.S. has not banned this. As a result, CWT is paying for waste products that under other circumstances, they would actually get money for disposing of. This is why they're planning on building in Europe -- because acquiring the raw material becomes an asset, not a liability.

        2. The U.S. government currently offers a $1/gallon tax credit for certain bio-diesel fuels. The CWT does not currently qualify for this credit because of the language of the law. If that is changed, there are 42 gallons per U.S. barrel, meaning a $42/barrel tax credit, which as far as I know, is as good as cash.

        • Tax credits (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Engineer-Poet (795260)
          If I understand the law correctly, the biodiesel initiative allows $.50/gallon for biodiesel made from waste oil. If biofuel made from any waste matter qualified, CWT's plants could collect $22/barrel.

          I'm not sure if this is a good thing. Subsidies usually result in overproduction and overconsumption, financed by the taxpayer. If we want to "fix" the problem, let's tax petroleum to pay for all the defense costs of the oil shipping routes instead of the taxpayer paying more for other things.

  • How, exactly, does one oil a market?

    No, never mind. I don't want to know.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:40PM (#11748465)
    Given that there is legitimate concern that we will soon reach -- and maybe already have -- peak oil production, the $80/bbl price may be competitive before too long.

    The real problem is that there just aren't enough turkey guts in the world to replace crude oil, and the grain that the turkeys are fed is produced by an agricultural industry that is totally dependent on petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides.
    • by syphax (189065) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:50PM (#11748600) Journal
      The real problem is that there just aren't enough turkey guts in the world to replace crude oil

      Yes, but this is not a turkey-specific process. Consider, e.g., biomass (waste or otherwise). From TFA []:

      Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end , he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.
      • by abigor (540274) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:53PM (#11748654)
        "Yes, but this is not a turkey-specific process."

        That's one phrase I never thought I'd ever see.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:56PM (#11748687)
        Yes, but this is not a turkey-specific process. Consider, e.g., biomass (waste or otherwise)...

        OMG! Oilent Green is made out of people! People!
      • Yes, but this is not a turkey-specific process. Consider, e.g., biomass (waste or otherwise).

        All this is doing is getting greater efficiency from the existing cycles that are there. These ultimately get their energy from the sun. I still don't think, though, that waste would produce the energy used by the modern society. I was reading something somewhere that to run the world on biodiesel (admittedly not waste, but growing plants specifically for making fuel) some huge proportion of the world's crops wou
        • some huge proportion of the world's crops would need to be converted to this cause. A pretty big chunk of the world's population is already somewhat hungry

          Non-sequiter. The problem of hunger isn't the availability of crops (hell, we pay people to not grow food int he U.S.), it's distribution.

        • There's a lot of spare agricultural capacity out there. Something like 70% of all U.S. farmland is used to grow livestock feed. Cheap hamburgers aren't that important to me. Also, biodiesel doesn't have to come from food crops. We can get biodiesel from algae that grows in salt water and ethanol from cellulosic plant waste (basically straw and plant stalks). Even with soybeans, there's plenty of nutritious stuff left over after you've extracted the oil.
    • This process isn't limited to argricultural waste. For instance, you could
      pipe the output of every bathroom in the city into a plant that turns that
      waste into usable light crude. All it would take is to build a plant where
      the sanitary sewer dumps out.

      Added benefit would be that there would be less pollution into rivers and such.
    • The real problem is that there just aren't enough turkey guts in the world to replace crude oil, and the grain that the turkeys are fed is produced by an agricultural industry that is totally dependent on petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides.

      First, if you had read the article (this time, or the last time thermal depolymerization was mentioned on slashdot), you would know turkey offal is only one type of feed that can be used. Any sort of agricultural waste will do. Any sort of organic waste, i

      • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:50PM (#11749334) Homepage Journal
        fertilizers are certainly NOT derived from petroleum
        No, they're typically derived from natural gas (steam-reform to hydrogen, Haber process combines H2 and N2 to make ammonia, ammonia is either used as-is or oxidyzed to HNO3. HNO3 is chemically combined with ammonia to make ammonium nitrate or urea to make urea nitrate).

        High natural gas prices have driven some users to petroleum fuels, so the demand for fertilizer is increasing petroleum demand even if it isn't a direct petroleum product.

        pesticides are sometimes synthesized using petroleum products (i.e., organic solvents), but I don't think that makes them petroleum-derived
        If their manufacture involves petrochemicals and their use increases the demand for oil, you might as well call them petroleum-derived.
        • petrochemicals (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bodrell (665409)

          fertilizers are certainly NOT derived from petroleum

          No, they're typically derived from natural gas (steam-reform to hydrogen, Haber process combines H2 and N2 to make ammonia, ammonia is either used as-is or oxidyzed to HNO3. HNO3 is chemically combined with ammonia to make ammonium nitrate or urea to make urea nitrate).

          The cheapest source of methanol and ethanol are also petroleum, but I certainly don't consider those petrochemicals. You can make pretty much anything from petroleum. I could synth

    • This raises the question, though, about whether we should try to keep making more oil, or whether we should put all this effort forth into cleaner energies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why does that last link run through the referal bin?
  • by Aardpig (622459) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:42PM (#11748493)

    ...from sewage, medical waste, electronics...

    Wouldn't it be truly ironic if the medical waste was liposuction fat (think Fight Club)? Then, the clinical obesity afflicting one in three Americans would itself be powering the automobiles that are, in part, responsible for the obesity.

    • Re:Medical waste? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:55PM (#11748679)
      Wouldn't it be truly ironic if the medical waste was liposuction fat (think Fight Club)? Then, the clinical obesity afflicting one in three Americans would itself be powering the automobiles that are, in part, responsible for the obesity.

      So what you mean is, we should power our vehicles with our own body fat?

      I know a more efficient way: it's called "cycling".
      • I know a more efficient way: it's called "cycling".

        I agree wholeheartedly with you, which is why I cycle to work every day. However, the problem with the cycling approach is that it skips out a crowd-winning step in the drive -> get fat -> liposuction -> biodiesel cycle: there is no satisfying consumption of Krispy Kreme, Twinkies, etc etc.

      • by That's Unpossible! (722232) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:56PM (#11749404)
        I know a more efficient way: it's called "cycling".

        That depends on your definition of "efficient."

        I am in decent shape, and only rarely am I able to obtain a speed of 60MPH on my human-powered bicycle, and even then only for moments at a time. (Usually after colliding with a vehicle traveling at 60MPH.)
        • Re:Medical waste? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Silburn_Luke (672738)
          The word you are looking for is 'effective'.

          A motor vehicle is a far more effective transportation system, in that it can achieve higher speeds, move larger loads etc etc

          The guy on the bike is always going to be more efficient, if only because he's not carrying a ton or so of metal and plastic around with him.

  • It's a start. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sheetrock (152993) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:42PM (#11748496) Homepage Journal
    I've got a friend that was working on biodiesel development at the uni. At the moment it doesn't appear profitable, although only because we don't factor in the cost of diminishing resources and environmental pollution as costs, but as petroleum becomes scarcer alternative methods of energy reclaimation will look better and better (especially when we get to the point of getting more out than we're putting in.)

    I think it's important that we research these alternatives now. There are certain uses for petroleum that we can't reproduce via other means -- powering our cars and homes isn't one of them.

    • Re:It's a start. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kotukunui (410332)
      There are certain uses for petroleum that we can't reproduce via other means -- powering our cars and homes isn't one of them.

      I agree. I have yet to see a viable technology that will allow us to replicate the current level of service we get from jet airliners for air travel. I think they will be burning kero for a while yet. While there is always the option of returning to sailing ships (and solar electric powered airships for the optimistic) I think that air travel will be the last mode of transport
  • Changing World Tech's opening of a plant that converts agricultural waste to oil.

    You mean like what you get when you stuff dead trees and foliage in mud, burry it deep underground under billions of tons of rocks, and wait a few million years?
  • by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:44PM (#11748514)
    A)Do they deliver?
    B)What's Darl McBride's address again?
  • Why Turkey Guts? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:44PM (#11748522)
    There are lost of other things I would think that are more viable that are hard to get rid of. I'm sure slaughterhouses would be glad to have a way to get rid of all the shit that the animals produce. Any one remember the CNN story about the giant flaming shitheap in Nebraska? []
  • mad cow, anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whumpsnatz (451594) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:45PM (#11748528)
    "feeding animals to animals remains standard practice in the U.S"

    Really stupid. If politicians weren't in the pocket of industry, this would be outlawed. Make that OUTLAWED! Then, maybe the slaughterhouses would be _paying_ to have the offal disposed of - and not by dumping it anywhere they own a piece of land, either.

    Voila! Suddenly the product becomes directly competitive with petroleum.
    • Yeah, that's really dumb. We have farmers who complain that they don't make enough money. Well, let's start sending animal waste into oil, and let the farmers raise feed for the animals. Win-win for everyone! (Except for our thanksgiving turkey will cost more.)
    • Sort of but not really.

      Mad cow disease is caused by cows eating COWS (or sheep). The US has banned canabilistic feed. But remember that most diseases are species specific and by feeding turkeys to cows and cows to turkeys you prevent the spread of disease as efectivly as turning them into oil.

      But remember that by doing this you will make the cost of feed go up which will make the cost of meat go up...
  • by VAXcat (674775) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:47PM (#11748561)
    It's PEOPLE! Soylent Diesel is PEOPLE!!!!!
  • by hsmith (818216) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:47PM (#11748566)
    One of my mothers friends is starting a plant that converts tires into Oil. The process takes old tires and removes the oil from them, basically oil from the rubber and oil they pick up from driving on the road. I forget if it is a qt per tire or something goofy like that.

    They are out there, we need to find them.
  • Great SCOTT marty! I knew I should have patented this process. luckly they haven't figured out how to reproduce the flux capacitor. We have plenty of time........
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:49PM (#11748593)
    "OMG, they're TURKEYS!"
    (God as my witness, I honestly thought turkeys could fly.)

    The problem with the process, as I read the article, is that while thermal depolymerization may scale for any one particular type of waste, no single TD process works as well for all types of waste.

    If you're already running a turkey plant, it may be economical to spend $1M to render down turkey guts into $1.1M worth of oil. (Spend time in phase 1 than in phase 2.)

    If you're already running a tire dump, it may be economical to spend $1M for the same plant, with the dials set differently, to render used automobile tyres into $1.1M worth of oil. (Spend more time in phase 2 than phase 1.)

    The problem is that the process isn't continuous and efficient for all input waste types, such that not worth spending $100M for a really big plant to render 3000 incoming truckloads of raw organic matter into $110M worth of oil, because you can't. You have to separate the truckloads of "stuff with carbon in it" into piles of cow/pig/turkey bones, human bits from hospitals, raw sewage, chickenshit, pigshit, spammer, plastic bottles, used tires, and run different processes to get the most valuable materials out of each of the three waste streams.

    Neat idea for small and medium businesses with a uniform waste stream. Not gonna change the world.

  • Pardon me for being skeptical, but this almost sounds too good to be true. I'd love to believe it when I hear something like this, but more often than not, it ends up being a whole bunch of hypothetical crap that never ends up coming to fruition. Either that, or it'll be somehow compromised by the large oil companies so that it is either a) willed out of existance or b) cost prohibitive.

    I hate being such a skeptic.
  • Ricer A:I just got new rims, dual exhausts and a fuel injection system
    River B:That's nothing. My ride runs on recycled turkey, I'll just get my coat.
  • Produces? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125)
    And aside from gas and oil, the only other thing the system produces otherwise is sterile water.

    The thing will never get off the ground unless it produces some money.
  • He gave a talk for my organization [] a couple of months ago on his thermochemical process that converts cellulosic waste to precursor chemicals for fuels and fine chemicals. You can read a litte more on it here [] or by googling his name and Biofine. He claims the energy inmput/output ratio is quite good--I recall in the 30-40 range--and there is a process-scale facility online in Italy with interest to build a couple in the US.
  • 80$ a barrell vs 50$ a barell may SEEM to be a failure, but it is actualy an incredible accomplishment that will become increasingly viable in short order.

    I've done some research on this topic and found out that californias agricultural waste which is mostly funneled down into a southern californian dessert lake area could supply enough fuel to satiate the US oil supply.

    There is enough un-inhabitable land area in southern california to process all of this waste and thus fully liberate the US from foriegn oil, not to mention create a replenshible power supply compatible with our current prevelant technology (gas based power).

    The greatest contorl over per barell pricing is from the supply made available from oil producing states greatly controlled by OPEC. As world consumption increases and known stock piles decrease and cease over the next 30 to 50 years the price per barrell will continualy rise. And will certainly exceed 80$ a barell probably within the next five to ten years.

    The only reason oil is at 50$ per barell is due to it's massive scale, if waste based oils had even a hundreth of the scale that our current oil industry uses, or even a thousandth of the money, industry and investment it does, we would probably see prices drop well below the 50$ mark.

    And this is speaking of the technology in it's current form. Though it may have some initial ineffeciences which have made the cost 80$ a barrell, cost saving measures through natural refinment of the processing of waste will undoubtably greatly improve the procedure within the next few years and continue.

    I would say that 80$ a barrell is an astounding accomplishment which given the finite and defintie bounds of drill based oil will rapdily become an extremly attractive alternative fuel source.

    Im surprised at the pesimisitc tone from slashdot. I also speculate that in the next ten years or so we shall see the major players seek control over this new market to sell oil to the world market as their drill based supply dwindles.

  • BioDesiel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:00PM (#11748752) Homepage
    While this is nice and all, I think we should be working on BioDesiel more. It would be more profitable to convert soybeans and soybean oil into Desiel fuel than to try to extract that from agg. waste. While recycling is good and all, I would argue that at this point the environment would benefit more from getting large numbers of people over to BioDesiel than from sqeezing some extra oil out of waste.

    BioDesiel is the fuel of the (achievable) future, IMHO. Untill we can get Fuel Cells at reasonable prices or batteries get much better power density (or portable nuclear reactors are invented and safe) then getting peopole over to BioDesiel (which conventional Desiel engines can be easily modified to handle) is the solution.

    Plus, the exhaust smells like french fries so McDonald's should be pushing this because it will increase demand for their product. McDonald's: Bringing you the green future through fast food cravings ;)

    • Re:BioDesiel (Score:2, Informative)

      This *is* Biodiesel.
    • Re:BioDesiel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:24PM (#11749035) Homepage
      Dude, these are complimentary technologies. BioDiesel and AgroWaste-based hydrocarbons both provide the same benefit: a closed carbon cycle. The only technical difference is BioDiesel is a glorified way of harnessing solar energy, while AgroWaste-oil provides a way to reclaim energy that's tied up in materials that would otherwise go to the landfill.

      Moreover, I believe AgroWaste-oil can be used in polymer production, something not true of BioDiesel.

      Seriously... what's with the black-and-white world view?
  • $80 per barrel (Score:4, Informative)

    by NaruVonWilkins (844204) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:04PM (#11748801)
    The $80 per barrel number is misleading. When considering large markets, shipping oil all over the place from a root source at $80/barrel is not economically feasible. The key here is that this oil doesn't have to compete in that market. In eastern Washington State, a number of rendering plants are already doing this themselves. They don't have to ship the animal waste anywhere, so they aren't paying for it, and the oil they get it *vastly* cheaper than the diesel at the pump for their distribution. One plant I've seen also provides some electricity through a diesel generator running fuel they produce. I don't really know about the math here, but let's say you're saving $10 per barrel by not having to buy the "offal." Now you're at $70. How much overhead is put on a $50 barrel of diesel before it comes to the pump? Right now, we're seeing spot prices at $2.30 - multiplied by 55 gallons (per barrel, correct me if I'm wrong) - you get over $125. Since you're at the point of purchase already, as long as your equipment costs are less than $55/barrel, you're saving money over filling your trucks at the pump.
    • Re:$80 per barrel (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TykeClone (668449) *
      Right now, we're seeing spot prices at $2.30 - multiplied by 55 gallons (per barrel, correct me if I'm wrong) - you get over $125. Since you're at the point of purchase already, as long as your equipment costs are less than $55/barrel, you're saving money over filling your trucks at the pump.

      Don't forget fuel taxes - not sure what they are, but they make up a substantial portion of that $2.30. If you are filling up and avoiding the "revenuers", then the savings would be as described. If not, then the s

    • by Dan Ost (415913)
      For oil, at least.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check out []. They claim they can make biodiesel at competitive rates (way below $80/barrel) and appear to have a pilot plant actually running and proving the technology in Montana.
  • Apparently the Turkey guts are not as profitable to recycle as hoped...

    Ah, darn. I guess that makes these futures I bought in turkey guts pretty useless.

  • I'd imagine waste vegetable oil would smell significantly better. Do you want your exhaust to smell like poo or like donuts?
  • Two Cost Factors (Score:4, Informative)

    by mdielmann (514750) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:32PM (#11749758) Homepage Journal
    There are two cost factors that are really afffecting them. Remedying either or both of them could turn the tide.

    The first is their exclusion from a tax break for biodiesel. This looks like a gross oversight which they may be able to get corrected. The article mentions this as being equivalent to a $1/gal. reduction in production costs, which would be significant.

    The second is the cost of raw materials. Animal wastes are accounting for $15 to $20 per barrel. If they can source a raw material that is either free or they can charge to process, half or more of their cost difference vs. traditional diesel will be removed. The other option would be to remove the current primary market for animal byproducts, use in animal feed. This increases the viability in Europe.

    If they could get both of those changes enacted, their cost per barrel could be near zero, certainly competitive with traditional sources.

If at first you don't succeed, you are running about average.