Sault Ste. Marie Strikes Oil
Well, not exactly. But advanced technology at a plant under construction in Sault Ste. Marie will be used to extract oil from used tires, along with other valuable by-products, when it becomes operational early next year.
The showcase facility will be using a proprietary technology developed by Environmental Waste International Inc. (stock symbol EWS on the TSX Venture Exchange) (TSX VENTURE:EWS). Its patented microwave delivery system breaks down the tires at the molecular level, reducing them to their simplest forms—oil, carbon black, steel and hydrocarbon gases. Running at a planned recycling rate of about 300,000 tires a year, the plant would produce some 240,000 U.S. gallons of oil, 2 million pounds of carbon black, and 600,000 pounds of steel annually. Off-gases produced by the system will be used to co-generate electricity that allows the system to be energy self-sufficient.
Reverse Polymerization, the patented EWS technology used in this system, is the most advanced process of its kind in the world. Since it does not melt tires, but rather breaks apart the molecular bonds, virtually 100 per cent of the tires’ by-products are reclaimed. Stephen Simms, President and CEO of EWS, says the facility in the Sault will be the first large-scale pilot plant of the tire application. “There’s a tremendous amount of interest in our process,” he notes, “with many potential purchasers eager to see the system up and running.”
“The price of oil was over $100 a barrel in 2008,” says Simms. “We were getting multiple inquiries a week about opportunities for this technology. The first step had to be to develop a showpiece system to demonstrate the ability for the process on a continuous basis, which is what led us to where we are now. As oil has maintained itself in the high $80s per barrel, it is at a very economic value for the technology. Because the by-product of the technology is a derivative of oil, their values have also gone up.”
Securing raw materials for the plant is already under way. About12 million used tires are generated in Ontario each year. In fact, under the Ontario Tire Stewardship program, a fee is paid for every tire processed through the plant.
Ellsin Environmental Ltd., the owner of the Sault facility, contracted EWS to design and build the prototype equipment for the plant which will have a total cost in excess of $6 million. EWS will build all future Ellsin systems and receive a royalty for each tire processed.
Simms points out that some 300 million used tires are generated each year in North America, and another 600 million annually in other parts of the world. He says the company’s goal is to capture about 30 per cent of the global market over the next decade.
The prototype EWS system being installed in the Sault is the TR-900. Models to be sold in the future will be larger. For example, the TR-6000—the largest unit that EWS currently has on the drawing board—is designed to process 2 million used tires a year and costs about $30 million.
Each TR-6000 will be capable of reclaiming over 1.6 million gallons of oil, about 6,500 tonnes of carbon black, and 1,800 tonnes of steel a year. Carbon black is used as a pigment and reinforcement in rubber and plastic products. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) has loaned $2 million to Ellsin to help fund the Sault project. Operations are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2011.
In North America, used tires are currently ground up and used in such applications as carpet under-padding or road re-surfacing, burned in cement kilns and other energy generating facilities, or they are sent to landfill. Since the EWS technology is capable of recovering and recycling valuable by-products from used tires, it is a far superior method of disposal. “The technology allows the tire to be broken back down to its components and this gives marketable by-products that can be sold back into the market places,” says Simms.
Tire to buyer
“Our technology squeezes every bit of recyclable product out of a tire, and does so without sending any hazardous emissions up a smokestack or residual waste to landfill,” Simms explains.
The main component of the system, which houses the microwave equipment, has now been completed by contract manufacturer Abuma Manufacturing Ltd. of London, Ontario, and will be transported to the Sault over the next few weeks.
This demonstration system is currently in the final stages of being set up; the core component and the designed microwave system have had the initial assembly complete and is being shipped to Sault Ste. Marie to be put together for operation.
Simms and his colleagues are preparing for 2011 to be a prosperous year and the culmination of a lot of dedication. The system is scheduled to be running in the first quarter of the year. “It will be an exciting year with the opportunity to begin selling the commercial system. We expect to be booking in sales and establishing the company, ideally on a worldwide basis.”