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.