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AgroWaste to Oil a Growing Market

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the more-than-just-compost dept.

Businesses 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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472 comments

Economical? (3, Insightful)

Compugoat.biz (861779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748425)

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

Re:Economical? (3, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748474)

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? (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748868)

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? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748755)

From the Article:

"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."

Re:Economical? (1)

nephorm (464234) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748502)

Well. That would be one of those pesky laws of thermodynamics, wouldn't it?

Re:Economical? (4, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748548)

You do not understand the laws of Thermodynamics. The grandparent was asking about the refinement process, not the entire system from conception of the turkey, to its growth, to when it got whacked, and its guts and crap were shipped.

By the later definition, nothing is economical, and we shouldn't even bother getting up in the morning.

Re:Economical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748519)

thermodynamics
google it
The extra energy in this process is from the waste put into it and since the waste is either free or cheap it is worth it. No power source releases as much energy as goes into it. If it did cars would go 60% farther.

Re:Economical? (2, Informative)

syphax (189065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748542)

From TFA: [mindfully.org]


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.


Re:Economical? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748549)

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 into diesel, and see the USA tell the Saudis to screw themselves. (Fat Chance)

Re:Economical? (5, Informative)

Overt Coward (19347) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748550)

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? (4, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748626)

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? (1)

jthayden (811997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748578)

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

No, there is a net energy gain. Part of the reason is they are burning the natural gas they produce to heat the mixture. If it was just that though, they would lose energy. But they are also recycling the super heated water they produce back into the new mixtures in order to save energy on the heating process. This allows them to only have to use the natural gas they produce and leave the crude oil for other purposes.

Discover magazine has run a few stories about it in the past. This tech is impressive. I just wish they'd go public so I could invest a little. I think it would do quite a bit better than my environmentaly friendly mutual funds. It would also be nice to help them expand faster.

Re:Economical? (5, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748647)

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 [physicsweb.org] 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? (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748765)

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.

Re:Economical? (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748787)

If their cost is $80/barrel, I'd expect the energy cost of processing is included in that price. Since the plant is powered by natural gas from its own process, it doesn't depend on cheap energy from outside except for maybe some electricity from the grid.

ooohh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748428)

ice in my pants is rather nice. it's nice to finally have SOMETHING down there

Sterile water? (5, Funny)

Roadkills-R-Us (122219) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748443)

Does that mean it can't reproduce?

Branching out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748447)

Do they sell franchises?

good (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748449)

at least we know there will be a cap of $80 usd for the barrel of oil.

Re:good (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748513)

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...

Re:good (1)

Ced_Ex (789138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748748)

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

So cheaper fuel in the fall season?

Re:good (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748555)

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...

Re:good (0, Redundant)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748642)

The more imporatnt issue is the amount of energy required to produce this "turkey gut oil". Let's say that the energy requirement to produce is equal to a barrel of oil (ie, no real energy savings)... if the price of enery goes up, so does this barrel of "turkey gut oil" goes up proportionately.

So the key is, how "energy efficient" is this process. As an AC noted, it ain't much more efficient than my above scenario.

Re:good (1)

adpowers (153922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748852)

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 lower prices until they are unable to sell what they produce.

SEWAGE! (5, Funny)

Evil W1zard (832703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748457)

Well I have the perfect marketing slogan for this! We can call it STOOL FUEL, Straight from people's butts into your engines.

Re:SEWAGE! (4, Interesting)

Mr. Capris (839522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748556)

Hmm...if everyone had a miniture version of these plants in thier home, they could just dump everything (sewage, trash, reclyclables) down a chute and have a sign saying Oil- 25 cents a quart! outside on thier lawn...

Re:SEWAGE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748690)

Yeah, because it feels so much better to burn dinosaur carcasses!

Re:SEWAGE! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748701)

How about Ass2Gas?

Cost (3, Insightful)

nickirelan (775855) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748458)

It would be a great idea if it was cheaper. Maybe other natural ingredients will help bring the price down.

Re:Cost (5, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748523)

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 (4, Interesting)

Overt Coward (19347) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748643)

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.

Re:Cost (1)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748639)

It will start to seem far more valuable as our current oil supplys dwindle over the next 50 to 100 years ( maybe 30 , who really knows).
It is great that we start now to find alternatives to ease ourselves into more ecological fuel soloutions,Diesel is far cleaner than petrol to my knowlidge and would help a hell of alot in reducing emmisions(kyoto anyone) till we all drive nuclear powerd electric cars(hopefully hover cars) ;).

Re:Cost (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748814)

Diesel has issues with particulate emissions, one of the reasons that it's not so popular in the US. In Europe, where certain smog components are lower thanks to diesel engines, many cities are battling particulates in the air. Win some, lose some.

Price may not be a problem for long (5, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (4, Informative)

syphax (189065) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748600)

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 [mindfully.org]:


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.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (5, Funny)

abigor (540274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748654)

"Yes, but this is not a turkey-specific process."

That's one phrase I never thought I'd ever see.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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!

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (0, Flamebait)

Mr. Capris (839522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748703)

biomass (waste or otherwise)

Hitler's dream machine...not only get rid of the so-called unwanted, but also fuel his war machine...Scary/Sobering, when you think about it...what scary potential this thing has.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (1)

squidinkcalligraphy (558677) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748742)

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 would need to be converted to this cause. A pretty big chunk of the world's population is already somewhat hungry, but economics being the way it is, poor people would go hungrier in order to feed the West's energy needs.

No, I think the answer may have something to do with reducing energy consumption first.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (1)

Overt Coward (19347) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748855)

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.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (2, Insightful)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748866)

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.

Re:Price may not be a problem for long (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748717)

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.

$80/bbl (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748786)

Why would the price spike like that?

Google up on "Hotelling model" and "optimal depletion path"

If the price spikes then the oil cartel was only screwing themselves all along, and I don't see them as the type to do many favors.

not just turkey parts (1)

bodrell (665409) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748837)

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, including hazardous chemicals (which are often just dumped in the ocean, or even injected into the ground, crazy as that sounds). Do you think there will be a shortage of raw sewage any time soon? Or garbage, in general?

As a side note, fertilizers are certainly NOT derived from petroleum, and pesticides are sometimes synthesized using petroleum products (i.e., organic solvents), but I don't think that makes them petroleum-derived any more than pharmaceuticals are.

Behold, the power of fark.com (-1, Flamebait)

mveloso (325617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748466)

Surprise! This was on fark.com the other day.

Let's see if the comments here are more interesting.

Last link through fark? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748492)

Why does that last link run through the fark.com referal bin?

Medical waste? (5, Funny)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 9 years ago | (#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? (4, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#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".

Re:Medical waste? (1)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748843)

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.

The answer is at hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748495)

Finally, endless energy! Hook this machine up to politicians' mouths and the RWCM's mouths and we wouldn't have to worry anymore!

It's a start. (4, Insightful)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748496)

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. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748749)

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

Did you factor in the cost of disposing of the waste beforehand? How much does it cost to dispose of a drum of medical waste? How any drums of medical waste does it take to make a drum of biofuel? What do hospitals regularly pay per drum to burn/bury their medical waste?

If the numbers are right, selling the manufacture of biodiesel as a waste disposal process could be quite profitable, and you might even undercut petroleum if the fees to the waste-producers subsidize it enough.

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

Kotukunui (410332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748812)

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 to give up on petroleum based hydrocarbons.

Re:It's a start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748853)

Sheetrock's sig as of writing:
Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.

-- Dr. Spock, stardate 2822.3.

FOR PITY'S SAKE! If you're gonna post on /., FOR ALL THAT IS DECENT AND HOLY, at least ATTRIBUTE THE QUOTE CORRECTLY. That particular passage is from The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda to young Skywalker, in the Degoba swamp.

Also, there is NO Dr. Spock. It was ALWAYS Mr. Spock, NEVER Dr. Spock (until he later wrote a book lambasting the spanking of children, but that was just a Nom De Plume).

Bloody apathetic poster. I have no sympathy at all.

go.fark.com link? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748498)

You kill two birds with one stone. /. fark's redirecting script, and /. the final site. Genius!

Wow, some new technology... (1, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748500)

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?

Re:Wow, some new technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748851)

Yeah, dropping the production time from a few million years to a couple hours hardly qualifies as a technological advance does it?

$30-40 a ton for offal? (4, Funny)

Nine Tenths of The W (829559) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748514)

A)Do they deliver?
B)What's Darl McBride's address again?

Re:$30-40 a ton for offal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748877)

Darl is just a worthless peon now... deliver it to those multi-millionare spammers.

Sigh...I see the protest signs now (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748515)

"NO MORE FECES FOR OIL!"

Why Turkey Guts? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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?

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/01/28/cow.fire.ap/ [cnn.com]

You misspelled "is" (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748592)

the giant flaming shitheap IS Nebraska....

There, better.

Re:Why Turkey Guts? (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748862)

The main reason is that the largest plant to date is at ConAgra's Butterball Turkey plant in Carthage, Missouri. The guts of the birds destined for the freezer are shipped across the facility to the TDP plant, where the magic happens.

mad cow, anyone? (5, Insightful)

Whumpsnatz (451594) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:mad cow, anyone? (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748710)

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.)

Re:mad cow, anyone? (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748770)

The oil would be cheap enough to use, but you would be paying more for meat; you really think this wouldn't change the price you have to pay for meat if the meat-producers had to pay to get rid of waste? I'd rather pay less for food and more for oil; this promotes proper conservation. (or, if the gov't subsidised it, you'd pay somewhere else - in taxes or reduced gov't services).

There are some good alternatives out there... (3, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

this was done in 1985 (2, Funny)

kevinx (790831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748569)

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........

Soylent Oil is(n't always) Turkey! (4, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Soylent Oil is(n't always) Turkey! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748641)

Wrong, with this proccess you can dump everything in the same vat and it all seperates on its own. You dont have to isolate every different type of product before putting it in.

Seems too good to be true (1)

a_nonamiss (743253) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748598)

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.

Re:Seems too good to be true (1)

SdnSeraphim (679039) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748726)

I believe (I have not actually seen the plant myself) that it is already operational. It is creating oil and selling it to a local manufacturer for combustion in a boiler. It is, however, nowhere near the cost range they initially (2003) thought it would be. But first generation technology always has fits and starts.

Re:Seems too good to be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748780)

If Big Oil was smart they would invest in this, not make it go away. Think of all the greenies in California who would pay $5 a gallon just to know that what they are pumping is derived by enviromently friendly processes.

Ricers will love this (1)

Nine Tenths of The W (829559) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748599)

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 shit...er, I'll just get my coat.

Global Solution (0, Troll)

subbawt (861808) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748620)

Pretty soon our oil-hungy government will be turning prisoners into oil, knocking out two birds with one stone. Overcrowded prisons and the oil crisis. Hell if they kill the diseased inmates maybe three birds.

Produces? (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748635)

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.

Consider Pollution (1)

lanc (762334) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748645)


Yay, We are running out of natural, not-renewing energy containers, that we can burn mostly in cars so smooth to pollute/dirt everything in sight! Lets create new ways to keep up the pollution!

Sarcasm aside - the only positive factor at it is to get waste recycled. That should be triggered more widely. Get your rubbish sorted - and it will be time to build up new industries on recycling.

Re:Consider Pollution (1)

jthayden (811997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748776)

Actually, the carbon gain from this is 0. It takes carbon that is already in the environment and reintroduces it. This does not have the same environmental impact as taking carbon that is locked up under ground and releasing it into the environment.

Burning oil that is produced in this way has no net effect on the atmosphere.

Steven Fitzpatrick/Biofine (2, Informative)

mkcheme (824521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748652)

He gave a talk for my organization [aiche-boston.org] 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 [aiche.org] 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.

Supply, Demand, Refinement, Scale (5, Interesting)

visionsofmcskill (556169) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748716)

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.

--VISION

BioDesiel (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748752)

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 ;)

$80 per barrel (4, Informative)

NaruVonWilkins (844204) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Actual Cost Effective bioprocessing company (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748809)

Check out http://www.biosourcefuels.com/ [biosourcefuels.com]. 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.

There goes my big idea (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748822)

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.

Smell (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748856)

I'd imagine waste vegetable oil would smell significantly better. Do you want your exhaust to smell like poo or like donuts?

Shame.. (0)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748860)

that supposedly intelligent people are atill hell-bent on producing and consuming gasoline by preference.

Even if it is made from recycling, burning gas still produces pollution that is leading directly to an environmental catastrophe, no matter how hard most americans including the president, refuse to acknowledge it.

These scientists would be doing the world a much bigger favour by researching pollution-free alternatives like hydrogen power instead.
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