New Fuel Technology is Made from Recycled Paper

Balcones Resources, an independent recycler of high-grade paper in the Southwest, has built a new plant manufacturing alternative fuel at its facility in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The new Fuel Technology Division of Balcones Resources was built in cooperation with Kimberly-Clark Corporation to help the corporation meet an objective of eliminating the landfilling of its manufacturing wastes at a significant savings over landfill costs. This manufacturing waste consists primarily of cellulose and plastic.

"What we've done is develop an efficient, economically viable, clean-burning fuel made entirely from recycled material that is an alternative to burning coal or wood," said Steve Stone, vice president, Little Rock plant.

The recycled fuel product is being manufactured at a newly opened $2.5 million facility off Thibault Road in Little Rock encompassing massive shredders, conveyer lines and cubing machines.

The fuel cube (which is patent pending) is a block measuring roughly one inch by two inches, burns cleaner than coal at a comparable BTU output, but is priced more comparably to wood.

"Think of it this way," Mr. Stone said. "One truckload of our fuel cubes is equivalent to three truckloads of wood fuel when you compare the BTU values. The BTU value of the fuel cube is consistently between 12,400 and 13,500 BTU. Coal is 12,750 BTUs.

The fuel cube is the first product developed by Balcones' newly formed division and is being sold and marketed to industrial users who fire large boilers such as paper mills or electrical generating plants.

Mr. Stone said that for years recycling companies have been baling material and selling it as an alternative fuel, but the results were often less than desirable, and the large bales were difficult to handle.
The challenge was to find the right "mix" of material that could be compressed into manageable size cubes - roughly the size of a lump of coal - that would burn as hot but cleaner.

For three years the Austin, Texas, based Balcones researched and tested materials at its Little Rock plant for the right mix, proper shredding and compression, then finally developed the right combination.

The material for the fuel cube is manufacturing waste from several Kimberly-Clark facilities in the Southwestern U.S. which contains materials difficult to recycle. The large rolls of material from which some of Kimberly-Clark's consumer products are made have been deemed damaged or unsuitable for use.

"Of course, having the ability to produce a viable and economical alternative fuel is only half the challenge," said Mr. Stone. "You then have to sell it. We knew when we were developing thi sproduct that we had something that manufacturing plants with large boiler systems would want to use, but it is hard to sell before you have something to give the customer." said Mr. Stone.

He added, "What we developed is a product that is a consistent quality and has a consistent BTU level. That is something we have to offer our customers. The material comes from several different plants including the corporation's plants that produce diapers, wipes, adult continence products, and feminine hygiene products. We have blended the materials to produce a consistent BTU, which is what the customer is looking for."

A customer was waiting for just such an economical, alternative fuel in the form of a large paper mill in southwest Arkansas. The paper mill is currently using approximately 60 tons of fuel cubes a day.

"At the moment, the paper mill is taking everything that we are pro-ducing," said Mr. Stone. "The Little Rock plant is currently producing about 1,600 tons of fuel cubes a month but has the capacity to produce twice that amount per month."

When a company that releases emissions, such as a paper mill, wants to switch to an alternative fuel product, it must test the product and get a special permit. Lloyd Davis, engineer, PE, at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, explained that they emissions cannot not be higher than the fuel the plant is currently using and the type of fuel it is using must be specified in the permit.

“Balcones fuel cell works well in wood burning boiler systems,” said Mr. Davis. “Most alternative replacement fuels that are in development have mineral or nitrogen contents that are too high for emission standards. The Balcones fuel cells have no or very minimal mineral content. The emissions consist mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

“There is simply not enough wood waste in Arkansas to supply the companies in the state that use wood-fueled boilers,” Mr. Davis continued. “Wood waste is mainly bark and scrap from furniture makers and so on. These companies cannot switch to natural gas because of the cost involved in changing the equipment.”

He said that there are very few products that have been approved in Arkansas as a substitute for wood in the wood-fired boilers and that the Balcones fuel cells are a good choice. It also keeps the materials out of landfills and some of it, mainly the plastics are not biodegradable.