The Plain Dealer, March 12, 2013
A Cleveland company that has been turning scrap tires, plastics and medical waste into crude oil in its Akron plant for the past few years is planning a large-scale expansion on the cusp of a residential area on Cleveland’s East Side.
Vadxx Energy intends to build a 10,000-square-foot facility near the intersection of St. Clair Avenue and East 79th Street, where the company will burn as many as 60 tons a day of plastic and rubber waste, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Garrett told City Council members at a Community and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday.
Until now, the company has been burning about three tons of the material per day in its Akron plant, Garrett said. But demand for the byproduct — a synthetic form of crude oil that can be refined into gasoline or diesel fuel — is on the rise, he said. And the Cleveland plant, which will cost the company between $12 and $20 million to build, will be the first step in what could be a global expansion for Vadxx.
The plan includes building a new office on Euclid Avenue to house 10 of the company’s executives, engineers and other support staff. Seventeen new jobs will be created for machine operators and technicians at the plant.
Garrett briefed council as a courtesy, though his plan does not require council approval or taxpayer dollars.
The company’s underlying process, called pyrolysis, heats the shredded material in an airtight crucible, reducing it to crude oil, char and a combustible gas, which is recycled and burned to continue fueling the process, according to Krantz. The company is picky about what kinds of materials enter the chamber, and the tires, plastics and medical waste are sterilized before they are burned, Krantz said.
The city’s proposed process, called gasification, uses a controlled amount of oxygen to reduce trash pellets into ash, then burns the gaseous byproduct to power a turbine and generate electricity. The city would feed the gasifier municipal trash, which would be pre-sorted to remove harmful substances. The U.S. EPA declared that the technology amounts to an incinerator — a major polluter that must be regulated under strict federal guidelines.
Krantz said the Ohio EPA considers Vadxx’s system a minor contributor to pollution. The exhaust is clear and odor-free, and the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from its 25 to 40-foot high smokestack will be equivalent to about 800 cars on the road, he said.
Neil Seldman, president of the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Local Self Reliance, said in an interview Tuesday that the pyrolysis and gasification technologies are equally harmful to the environment.
“It is the exact same bill of goods,” Seldman said. “Burning tires emits toxic chemicals. Plastics are toxic, medical waste is toxic. They are trying to gasify toxic materials.”
Vadxx already has acquired the necessary permit through the Cleveland Division of Air Quality Control, a city office that acts as the local branch of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.