Called a Bio-cogeneration System, Green Carbon’s Thermal Vacuum Reactor System utilizes a custom designed generator produced by Caterpillar to capture a synthetic gas by-product of the recycling to power the generator.
“We were looking for a way to use the excess gas that is produced in the system in an environmentally friendly way,” said Green Carbon co-founder Phil Wilson. “I approached not only Caterpillar but several other companies and Caterpillar was the one that was able to develop the generator so that it would work off our gas.”
Wilson said he first contacted Caterpillar in July of this year and the company was able to convert one of its other natural gas-powered generators in less than three months time.
“Essentially you could put it out in the middle of a corn field and run it without anything else, except for the tires,” said Andrew Taylor, environmental management system for Green Carbon Inc. “It’s perpetual, the whole thing is powered by itself as long as you keep putting tires in.”
Green Carbon Inc. is a co-owned company with OTR Wheel Engineering of Rome. OTR has had a long relationship with Caterpillar.
“They got with us and we finally got the design right, and we finished all the testing and now have a massive natural gas-burning generator. They cut off the external power and it runs off itself,” Taylor said. “The entire system produces its own energy and never needs any kind of virgin material, meaning natural gas or diesel or electricity from an external source.
Taylor said the units in Rome are currently running on the new generators.
“As more units go out, hopefully soon, they’ll all be equipped with that aspect of it,” Taylor said.
Traditional recyclers of tires use a tremendous amount of external energy to power their systems, whereas the Green Carbon system now not only does not require any external energy source, but also reduces carbon dioxide emissions tremendously.
Taylor said the company has been deliberate about development of the recycling technology, a reference specifically to Green Carbon co-founder Wilson, Taylor said. “He said this TVR unit is going to work flawlessly. Before I ship it out the door, I want this to be semi-automated with no issues. There is a significant demand for it but he doesn’t want to sell something and somebody have an issue six weeks later.”
A half dozen of the units are in use at Fort McMurray in the area of oil sands in extreme northern Alberta, Canada. The reactors are used to recycle massive earth-moving and mining tires.
The largest of the tires, a 63-inch tire, can be reduced to 588 gallons of oil, 3,500 pounds of carbon black and 1,500 pounds of steel. The largest reactor can burn two of those tires at the same time in a process that takes 16 hours from start to finish. The process also produces and captures more gas than it takes to fuel the process.
“Our latest units that are operating in Fort McMurray are producing about 180 percent of the synthetic gas that is required to run the process,” Wilson said. “There is an enormous surplus of gas which in the winter they can use for heating, but in the summer they just have to store it. Co-generation will use that gas up supplying not only the power they need to run their plant but also sell it back to the grid.”
Co-founder Fred Taylor has indicated that each of the large reactors is capable of eliminating enough tires to result in the creation of about 36,000 gallons of oil.
Wilson said Green Carbon is able to customize its reactors for the client based on conditions where the equipment will be used. Wilson said the designers had to make changes for the extreme climate at Fort McMurray.
“In a temperate climate we can use cooling towers for our cooling water, up there you cannot because it will freeze up,” Wilson said. “If you use glycol in the evaporation you get emissions of glycol into the atmosphere so they switched to using very large radiators.”
“The scrap tire problem in the world is enormous, and we believe we have the most environmentally-friendly system that there is,” Wilson said. “That was ratified by the Life Cycle analysis that we had done by Earth Shift Global.”
The reactors don’t care what size tires are recycled. The Rome plant typically bales old tires into 1,000 pounds per bale. The reactors are capable of recycling 20,000 pounds at a time and run every other day because of the time it takes for the process.