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January 2006

Equipment Spotlight

Thermal Treatment Equipment
by Irwin Rapoport

Today, the environmental issues surrounding the processing of medical wastes are enormous. Great strides have been made developing equipment and processes to handle this waste while protecting our environment.

Medical waste thermal treatment equipment, which utilizes pyrolysis and thermal gasification related technologies, the very technologies that are being employed to eliminate hazardous and medical waste and provide alternative energy, is now being utilized.

Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures, in the absence of gases such as air or oxygen. The process, which requires heat, produces a mixture of combustible gases (primarily methane, complex hydrocarbons, hydrogen and carbon monoxide), liquids and solid residues.

Thermal gasification of MSW (municipal solid waste) is different from pyrolysis in that the thermal decomposition takes place in the presence of a limited amount of oxygen or air. The generated gas can then be used in either boilers or cleaned up and used in combustion turbine generators.

Located in a Chicago suburb, PEAT International, Inc. manufactures a variety of equipment, including the Plasma Thermal Destruction and Recovery unit (PTDR), which is used for disposing of types of medical waste and is certified as an “alternative-to-incineration” technology for medical waste in the State of California.

PEAT International“We use plasma energy within a thermal reactor to remediate and convert waste into energy,” says Frank Menon, PEAT’s CEO. “Temperatures in the reactor are in the 2,000 C range. We use plasma torches, where the temperatures in those plumes are in the range of 7,500 C.”

PEAT has already built two facilities in Taiwan, one at the National Cheng Kung University that can handle five metric tons per-day and another that can process 10 tons per-day. These facilities can process a wide range of solid waste streams, including incinerator fly ash, medical waste, organic hazardous waste and inorganic sludge.

“This was the first time that the government of Taiwan committed financial and technical resources to the utilization of plasma technology,” says Menon, who adds that 10-ton facility in Taiwan is being expanded in terms of types and amounts of waste. “We’re also expanding in India. We’re partnering with the largest incineration company in India to use pyrolysis and plasma technology to remediate hazardous wastes which are being stockpiled today.”

Menon notes that plasma remediation is taken more seriously in countries such as Korea, Japan and Taiwan because tipping fees for medical waste are much higher there compared to those in the United States and that they have stricter standards for remediation.

“Now the U.S. is changing towards that,” he says. “We’re talking with a couple of local hospitals in Chicago that have been forced to shut down their incinerators. It’s just a matter of time before the education level in the U.S. public reaches a certain level where they know what plasma is, what it can do and that it’s not incineration.”

The PDTR system, on average, can reduce medical waste in terms of volume and weight an average of 85 to 95 percent to create a molten slag and when processed, is converted into fine silicon sand. The slag can be mixed in concrete aggregate and used in roadbed construction.

“All the results that are coming back are that 99.9 percent of all by-products coming from pyrolysis of any waste are going to be re-usable,” says Menon.

In terms of energy production, the results are two-fold: the production of syn gas – a variant of natural gas that is cleaner burning because it does not contain any of the arsenics found in natural gas and using the heat to produce electricity to run steam turbines.

“We’ve been getting some tremendous results in Taiwan,” says Menon. “The project was primarily done to test case what can be done with medical waste, as well as the fly ash from incinerators that had just done medical waste. We did not expect much syn gas from the fly ash, but we saw high volumes being generated and that was because the incinerators were unable to combust completely.

“Overall, the syn gas values have been high to the point where we spoke with Jenbacker, a division of General Electric – they have turbines and engines that would be able to utilize our syn gas in the production of electricity.”

The heat generated from the plasma process is piped into turbines, which helps to run generators.

Las Vegas-based North American Power Company manufactures the Thermal Recovery Unit, which comes in two models that utilize the pyrolysis method. The smaller unit can dispose of 12 tons per day, while the larger unit has a capacity of over 75 tons per day.

North American Power

“The capacity is such that a mid-level regional hospital is not gong to be able to use it as effectively as consolidating five or six hospital together,” says Ed Stammel, NAPC’s founder. “The machine formally degrades any organic material that is introduced into the process. The resulting product is reduced by an average 85 to 95 percent in weight and volume. The resulting carbon char – we have not found a case where it has not been – is sterile, non-leachable, non-hazardous and can be thrown away in a landfill or used for other purposes.”

The recovery unit is approved by the State of California’s Department of Health Services as an alternative treatment technology for the destruction of medical waste.

The equipment, whether it is sold outright or utilized as part of joint venture participations and private programs, is now part of the recycling landscape.

The heat generated from the destruction process can be recovered and used to provide energy.

“You can run it through a steam turbine process,” says Stammel. “It can be used anywhere there is a need, whether it be for drying, energy production, heating and hydroponics. We have a client that will be using the equipment for its very large-scale MSW plant.”

United Recycling Technology Inc., a Nevada corporation with offices in Los Angeles founded in 2001 by Aram Sarkissian, is currently in the process of selecting a site to house its Medical Waste Gasification Process unit – a southern California facility will be able to process 2,000 pounds of waste per hour.

“The unit has already been tested and is ready to run,” says Sarkissian, the president of the company. “On average, you are looking at about a 90 percent reduction in weight and volume. Everything turns into a silicon carbon ash substance. A major advantage is the reduction of the cradle-to-grave liability, as opposed to an autoclave that will only disinfect. After the process of an autoclave, the material is usually shredded, placed in a compactor and then discarded in a landfill. As well, our system has no additional emission controls that are required.”

In addition to being able to handle all varieties of medical waste, the excess energy created by the process will be recycled.

“We can take the gasses, run them in our burners and save on gas,” says Sarkissian. “The system can be self-running.”

United Recycling, whose equipment has also received certification from the state, is looking into developing partnerships with out-of-state clients.

“We are open to explore other states because we have met and exceeded the strict standards of California,” says Sarkissian.

Company Name
Contact Person
North American Power Company Stephanie Conover 702-270-9543
PEAT International, Inc. Daniel Ripes 847-559-8567
United Recycling Technology Inc. Aram Sarkissian 818-235-4701