Covanta Energy is working with a $1.5 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers that might provide a solution for growing fuel demand, as well as another problem facing the American military—trash. And it’s in the trash that Covanta is looking for an answer.
The American military is an oil-guzzling beast that is constantly hungry. In 2008, it demanded in excess of 68 million gallons of fuel each month for support forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the problem is compounded by attacks that, in June 2008 alone, cost the United States more than 200,000 gallons of fuel and 44 diesel-delivery trucks.
There are no permanent bases in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Because of this, disposing of trash at remote locations is difficult and dangerous. Burn pits are not safe for those exposed to them, and incinerators are too expensive to set up for short-term use. In essence, it uses valuable fuel and manpower to remove trash, which puts both at risk.
Covanta is working on a project that would turn solid waste into fuel. The benefits:
Reduced fuel costs
Reduced health risks to those disposing of trash at nonpermanent locations
Reduced danger to fuel convoys and loss of fuel due to attack
Covanta would mix solid waste with heavy oil and a catalyst (which contains aluminum, silicon and sodium), heat it to 500 degrees in a unique turbine reactor, and produce liquid diesel. This recipe is dependent on the 3,000-rpm turbine, which can handle liquids, solids and vapor. Because the turbine can treat solid waste at relatively low temperatures, it can reduce the amount of fuel it takes to convert trash into diesel, and chemical reactions and toxins are less likely to be produced.
While there have been attempts made to turn trash into energy for generators, Covanta is the first company that is working on making diesel from trash, the result of which is molecularly identical to diesel, not biodiesel. Currently, there are no programs in widespread use to fuel military operations in part with alternative energies. Covanta is hoping to change that and solve two pressing problems for the price of one.