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ICM plans to continue work on gasifier technology

By Ashley Bergner
The Kansan - Newton, KS
Feb. 8, 2013 
  • KS_Newton  --  Although ICM will be taking down its prototype gasifier at the Harvey County Transfer Station, the company said the technology won't be going away.

    The gasifier technology — which the Colwich-based company has been testing in Harvey County — didn't prove to be a viable option in Harvey County at this time, but ICM plans to continue marketing the project in other areas and still hopes to return to Harvey County someday.

    "We are fortunate to look ahead and see what other opportunities are here in the United States and even abroad," said Monique Pope, government affairs with ICM.

    ICM’s Biomass Gasification System, also known as a “gasifier,” burns trash and converts it to synthesis gas, which can be used to generate power in industrial and commercial settings. ICM tested thousands of tons of different types of waste, which are referred to as “feedstocks.” Feedstocks tested included wood chips, wheat straw and refuse-derived fuel (this includes junk mail, cardboard and other paper products thrown away).

    Jon Orr, capital sales manager in gasification at ICM, said ICM was disappointed they were unable to attract sufficient investments from interested financial partners due to the lower projected returns, based on limitations of available feedstocks. Limitations of developing off-take agreements to facilitate renewable power capabilities also was a factor, the company said. The project would have needed to operate closer to the gasifier's capacity of 150 tons of material per day, while Harvey County officials estimated supplying only about 90 tons per day.

    The gasifier still is sitting at the Harvey County Transfer Station, but ICM has begun to remove some of the pieces. The company's lease will expire at the end of June. ICM plans to leave some of the structures and buildings at the site for Harvey County to use.

    The company reports it continues to market its technology throughout North America and the Caribbean. Orr said the technology is attractive to areas with greater constraints on landfill space who are looking for better solutions to deal with waste.

    Orr anticipates the need for technology like the gasifier will continue to increase in the future. Some areas have only a short time space left before their existing landfills are filled to capacity.

    Both Pope and Orr thanked Harvey County officials for partnering with ICM on the project and making the gasifier's test run a success.

    "None of this would have been possible without the opportunity to do the work that we did at the Harvey County site," Orr said. "... What we learned and the data that we collected, there's just a tremendous value there."

    "I was always just so impressed with the vision of the commission," Pope agreed. "You guys are light-years ahead of other communities. ... It's always been a privilege to be a part of this project."

    The plan is to continue working on scaling down the technology so it will be more feasible for areas the size of Harvey County.

    "We're excited for potential collaboration again in the future," Pope said.