April 2006

Tire disposal process proves productive

EarthFirst Technologies Incorporated, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a company that specializes in alternative fuels. Specifically, it specializes in the researching and commercialization of processes to produce alternative fuels.

EarthFirst has developed an innovative new process that is extremely flexible in how it is used. Their process, called Catalytic Activated Vacuum Distillation (CAVD), can not only be used to recycle tires, but it may also be used to make biofuels from products such as soybeans and palm oil. It also has potential application for the remediation of other liquid and solid wastes such as medical waste, transuranic waste, carpet waste, and biomass.

According to the EPA, 250 million scrap tires are generated yearly, and an estimated 2 to 3 billion tires are already stockpiled in sites across the nation. These sites are breeding grounds for rodents and mosquitoes, and can easily catch fire. Efforts to recycle this multitude of tires usually meant one of several things. The tires could be shredded for various uses, burned in kilns, or destroyed through pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the process of burning tires in the absence of oxygen, under high pressure, usually at a high temperature around 2,200º. However, these processes can result in harmful by-products.

However, EarthFirst’s CAVD process, developed through a close relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, not only recycles the tires with an emissions level that satisfies even the strictest regulations, but also generates useful by-products. The process itself involves burning tires in a vacuum, similar to pyrolysis, but unlike pyrolysis, it burns them at a third of the temperature and relies instead on a catalytic agent to help convert the tires at a rapid rate. From one 20-pound passenger tire, this process produces 5.5-8.5 lbs of carbon, 1.2-2 gallons of oil, .36 lbs of steel, and 12-16 cubic feet of combustible gas.

A typical EarthFirst plant costs anywhere from $6.5-$8.5 million, but handling 48 tons (4,800 tires) daily, is expected to have annual revenues of around $9 million. The first plant, located in Mobile, Alabama, is fully operational and giving plant demonstrations to interested parties. The sale of the plants and the by-products is managed by one of EarthFirst’s wholly owned subsidiaries, World Environmental Solutions Company (WESCO). WESCO handles the global sales and marketing of the alternative fuels and eminently useful by-products of the CAVD process.


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