Frequently Asked Questions
Who is U.S. Science & Technology?
"U.S. Science & Technology," also known as "USST" is a private development company focused on providing innovative waste-to-energy solutions. In conjunction with our technology partners, we offer world-renowned expertise in environmental management, risk management, renewable resources development, systems engineering, sustainability, project development and project management/operations.
We build, own and operate innovative plasma gasification facilities using the most advanced, environmentally friendly technologies available today. Our state-of-the-art facilities will produce useful end products such as energy, alternative fuel, and building materials while overcoming costly and challenging environmental problems.
What is plasma gasification?
Is plasma gasification a proven technology?
Yes. Certain components of the plant, such as the gasification chambers, have been in use for hundreds of years. Other components, such as plasma torches and the technologies for syngas cleaning, electric power generation and air pollution control are also very well established. The use of these technologies to convert large quantities of municipal waste into usable byproducts has been in use for the past six years.
Are plasma gasification and incineration the same thing?
No, they are completely different. The two processes use different chemistry and produce very different results and byproducts. Incineration, also known as "mass burn" uses fuel, large quantities of oxygen and heat to burn material, resulting in an unusable, often toxic, ash byproduct that requires further treatment and disposal. Plasma gasification is a controlled process that uses heat and plasma gas, with limited oxygen to vaporize or gasify a large variety of unwanted feedstock, like municipal solid and agricultural wastes. There is no "burning" involved in plasma gasification. As a result byproducts include clean syngas – which can be converted to energy and alternative fuels to replace petroleum-based products.
|Technology||Temperature||Conversion to Energy|
|Plasma Gasification||7,200 – 12,600° F||816 kWh/ton of MSW|
|Conventional Gasification||1,400 – 2,800° F||685 kWh/ton of MSW|
|Pyrolysis Gasification||1,400 – 2,800° F||685 kWh/ton of MSW|
|Pyrolysis||1,200 – 2,200° F||571 kWh/ton of MSW|
|Mass Burn (Incineration)||1,000 – 2, 200° F||544 kWh/ton of MSW|
With the exception of plasma gasification, all of the technologies mentioned above have environmental issues and consequences for disposing of ash or sludge. Source: Dr. Young, Chemical Engineer, Gyco Inc.
Additional byproducts include include rock wool, a substitute for fiberglass, roadbed aggregate and construction materials.
Where is similar technology being used?
A plasma gasification plant in Utashinai, Japan, has been operating for more than six years on approximately 300/tons of municipal solid wastes per day, among other feedstock. Our technology partners – Westinghouse and parent company AlterNRG – have incorporated lessons learned from that plant to develop a new and improved gasifier capable of processing up to 750 tons of municipal solid waste per day. In conjunction with these and other technology partners, we will employ the best available technologies in the design and operation of our sustainable plasma gasification facilities.
Does plasma gasification eliminate recycling programs?
No. On the contrary, it supports recycling programs and in fact, it’s a very complementary process. For example, waste that is diverted to landfills, after recycling, can actually be recycled with plasma gasification. Think of it as recycling on a molecular level (recycling the molecules that make up the waste materials). With this highly efficient recycling process we can actually cleanly recover and recycle things like, metals, gases, water, fuels, and other materials that make up the waste that would otherwise be landfilled. We achieve this by utilizing the unique environment of the plasma gasification process with its intensely high, yet controlled temperatures and near zero oxygen levels. This allows us to break apart the feedstock into its pure fundamental parts (or molecules) at various states; providing us with the ability to cleanly recover, recycle, or convert them into things like glass slag, metals, usable gasses, electricity, alternative fuels, and water. This makes plasma gasification cleaner and much more efficient.
In the City of Sacramento, California, for example, about 350 tons of municipal solid waste is generated every day and that's after recyclable materials have been removed. Even municipalities with robust and successful recycling programs need to dispose of remaining municipal solid wastes. Plasma gasification takes what would otherwise be "dumped" and turns it into reusable products. In terms of environmental alternatives, plasma gasification plants are much better than landfills, and can efficiently assist recycling programs.
What about air quality?
We require that our plasma gasification facilities meet or beat all air quality control standards, which will also be heavily scrutinized through the environmental permitting processes at the local, state and federal levels. We are committed to using the Best Available Control Technologies to ensure that our facilities add to, and not detract from, the environmental health of the regions and populations we serve.
Any emissions would result from converting syngas to electricity by utilizing a gas turbine. Prior to being burned in the gas turbine to produce electricity the syngas is cleaned; leaving it very much like what can be expected from a conventional combined-cycle natural gas plant, which is a clear natural gas. These types of gas plants have the lowest emissions in the industry.
Are the other by-products toxic?
Absolutely not. In fact, the materials produced from the slag – like roadbed materials, and construction materials – meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and support sustainable green building and development practices.
How much does it cost to build a facility and who pays for it?
Cost is determined by several factors: Size of plant, location, regulatory/permitting environment, and desired end-product (transportation fuels, electricity, or steam being the primary) in particular. The proposed Sacramento plant is currently project at approximately $200M at no expense to local, state, federal, or tax-paying citizens, as it is a private development project. The final cost will be dependent on the results from the regulatory and permitting processes already established by the State of California and the resulting compliant plant design. Naturally, the larger the plant, the higher the cost, but the greater the advantage of economy of scale to improve the overall financial return and the environmental benefits associated with the treatment of waste.
Where will USST get its municipal solid waste?
We obtain municipal solid waste through long-term agreements with solid waste service providers, like municipalities and waste haulers. These agreements are cost neutral to these service providers at worst, but in most cases it will result in some recognizable savings.
Are there any public benefits?
Yes. Communities benefit in many ways – from new jobs, municipal revenues from sales and property taxes, investments into the communities, the diversion of post-recycled materials from landfills, production of domestic and local energy and the attainment of sustainable development practices all at no risk to the community. In addition, communities with plasma gasification facilities are recognized as global leaders in the use of innovative technologies to solve detrimental municipal problems.
USST is currently considering to build a facility in Sacramento, California. Where else?
Along with our technology partners we have approximately 10 projects in various stages of development, all over the world. Many communities are aggressively pursuing plasma gasification as an alternative to landfills, incinerators, and energy production.
Will the projects developed by USST meet environmental regulations?
Yes. We are committed to the health and well-being of all communities we serve. The ability of our projects to meet or beat air-quality and emission standards will be heavily scrutinized by us and through the many development and environmental permitting processes at the city, state and federal levels. These processes will ensure that our facilities meet all air quality, emission and other critical environmental standards.
Why aren't more cities doing this already?
Politics and economics. As you can imagine, there are powerful special interest groups formed around the municipal solid waste industry, and introducing change can be difficult. Furthermore, a large-scale plasma gasification facility is expensive, and it takes the right combination of tipping fees, electric power rates, and other higher-valued products to pay for the facility. In some places, it may be cheaper to simply bury the waste out in the desert. In Sacramento, we've found an economic environment that makes it possible to pursue the environmental benefits without increasing costs to the City and its residents. If you search the news for the keywords "plasma waste", you'll see a lot of interest throughout the United States and around the world in plasma gasification of municipal solid waste. It's a hot topic (pun intended).
Do you have a question you would like to ask U.S. Science & Technology?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to respond to your questions; popular questions will be answered and published on this web page.