Monday, July 03, 2006

Revolutionary garbage to 'gold' technology ready for market

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) - June 30, 2006 by Linda Chiem

Michael Lurvey is trying to turn garbage into gold.

Lurvey is CEO and president of Carbon Diversion, an Oahu-based high technology waste conversion company that is trying to make money out of the effort to cut the amount of trash that ends up in Hawaii's overflowing landfills.

Carbon Diversion uses a locally developed and patented technology called flash carbonization to turn bulky yard waste and junk like old tires into biocarbon, charcoal or electricity.

Flash Carbonization was developed by researchers at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa several years ago. Carbon Diversion has an exclusive license to the technology for the state and a large part of the Pacific.

Lurvey has worked on strategic economic development plans in the Marshall Islands as well as French Polynesia and has worked jointly with researchers at UH-Manoa for years on achieving sustainability through renewable energy.

"We believe that this technology is world-changing and revolutionary," he said. "My dream is to partner with as many people as I can to just clean things up.

"We divert the waste stream going into the landfills and create a value product. Instead of it being garbage, it becomes something sellable and usable."

The green waste is loaded into the electrically powered reactor, whose contents are then pressurized and heated. The materials are "cooked" for about 30 minutes to one hour depending on its moisture level and density. The resulting biocarbon or carbon charcoal can be marketed for cooking, potting soil, and water or air filtration.

"I really believe that there's all these different fields that have use and demand for this," Lurvey said. "We're developing [it] to produce power out of our waste and we'll have a completely natural resource."

The flash carbonization process burns cleaner so it emits no greenhouse gases. The steam that is emitted can be used to generate electricity, but that part of the system is still in early development.

While burning trash and reusing what's left has been around for years, Lurvey improved on the technology by making it portable and user-friendly. The reactor stands about nine feet tall and three feet in diameter. The entire system would require about half an acre of space for operations and two or three operators to load and run the machine.

Lurvey said the technology's environmental benefits are multifaceted. Cleaner steam emissions make for less air pollution. It increases recycling among industrial companies and is an alternative to wind and solar energy as a renewable energy source. It eliminates the amount of green waste going to landfills, which helps companies save money on disposal services.

For the last several months, Lurvey and his team have been quietly doing test runs of the system at Campbell Industrial Park in Kapolei. So far, they have produced several tons of charcoal from waste kiawe.

"It is successful," Lurvey said. "I wanted to make sure we got everything right before I said anything to anyone."

Lurvey said he is working with organizations to introduce the system to developing nations.

"They should be able to use their own renewable resources so they can generate a steady income," he said. "I like to say that we're looking for the triple-bottom line business. We're definitely not averse to being profitable but we want to be socially responsible." | 955-8042


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