AU, Masada to convert garbage, sewage to ethanol

Project enhances AU’s energy initiatives to benefit state/nation

AUBURN – A $1 million per year research agreement to develop and evaluate promising alternatives for the production of ethanol, aviation and other fuels using waste and natural resources has been reached between Auburn University’s Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering and the Masada Resource Group LLC.

The project will involve AC-PABE and faculty experts from the Department of Chemical Engineering in collaboration with the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts at AU, which is dedicated to exploring broad solutions to energy concerns.

“As crude oil resources are depleted, the cost of fuel and petroleum-based chemicals is rising. It is critical that this nation identify cost-effective alternative sources of energy,” said Harry Cullinan, AC-PABE director and principal investigator.

One of the most promising sources of alternative energy is biomass – a term that covers a wide variety of renewable plant and waste materials. Cullinan’s team believes that biorefineries, fueled by biomass, can provide a strong, sustainable alternative for the production of chemicals and fuels. Integrated biorefineries combine innovative biomass/waste conversion processes with the conventional production capabilities of facilities such as pulp and paper mills to produce a wider range of fuel, chemical and renewable energy products.

“This partnership has the potential to reinvigorate southeastern industry sectors that have been stagnant, and identify ways to turn waste into a valuable resource,” said Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Natural Resources Management & Development Institute, which houses AU’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts and the Water Resources Center.

“This country’s bioprocessing industries – be they forest-based, agricultural or municipal waste-based – have an opportunity to satisfy national needs while moving toward sustainable development,” said Chris Roberts, chair and Uthlaut Professor of Chemical Engineering. These new uses for existing industries expand industry and economic opportunities for the state, region and nation.

Masada and its affiliates developed the proprietary CES OxyNol™ Process to safely process and dispose of garbage and sewage sludge, while generating ethanol, a renewable, clean burning fuel. The biomass conversion process offers a viable method of greatly reducing or eliminating the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators. More than 90 percent of waste via Masada processing methods can be recycled or converted to beneficial use.

The proposed work will include the identification and validation of the optimal pretreatment of municipal waste to prepare it for ethanol production through enzymatic and microbial conversion. Researchers will also explore, a novel and environmentally-friendly means of separating cellulose and lignin from biomass; identify a cost-effective processing scheme for biomass and municipal waste, enabling the production of synthesis gas that can be used to produce aviation fuel as well as value-added chemicals; and develop a mathematical-based framework that accommodates the inclusion of profitability and other techno-economic measures in the process planning for a large biorefinery.

“We are honored to have been chosen to work with Masada on this exciting and much needed project,” Cullinan said. “We will facilitate contact with all of the major players in biorefining research and the industries which would implement these technologies.” In addition to Cullinan and Roberts, other AU chemical engineering faculty members involved include Mario Eden, Gopal Krishnagolalan and Y.Y. Lee, with additional experts available through the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts.

“Masada is excited and pleased to be working with a world class research institution on refining the CES OxyNol Process and developing the next generation fuels. The Auburn team is outstanding in not only their scientific knowledge, but also in deploying that know-how in commercial applications,” said Timothy Judge, Masada vice president for External Relations and Operations.

The Masada Resource Group, LLC was founded to explore, develop and deploy a stable recurring revenue business that responds to the demand for environmentally beneficial waste disposal and renewable energy.

Contact: Brian Keeter, (334) 844-4650 (bkeeter@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)