Uptown Greenville, NC


Biofuel Project Moves Forward

By K.J. Williams
The Daily Reflector

August 8, 2011 - A pilot project to turn garbage into biodiesel fuel is gearing up in Pitt County now that an air quality permit has been granted.

The thermal conversion system is expected to be built and operational by December at EJE Recycling and Disposal Inc. in the Pactolus area of Pitt County.

Judson Whitehurst, who owns EJE with his brother, Ed Whitehurst Jr., said EJE will be testing the process to prove that it's viable on a larger scale.

“This is the first one built in the United States, and I think overseas as well,” Judson Whitehurst said.

A 9,300-square-foot facility will house equipment to process up to 1,500 tons of municipal waste daily once the pilot stage is completed. Americans produce more than 230 million tons of waste daily.

The technology is based on pyrolitic gasification, according to EJE. Gasification uses controlled amounts of oxygen and steam at high temperatures to convert waste, ranging from organic matter to plastics, into synthetic fuel and carbon black, an industrial raw material.

Whitehurst declined to give specifics about how the plant will work because the new process was developed by Las Vegas-based Energy-Inc., EJE's partner in the venture. No one from Energy-Inc. could be reached for comment.

Construction is slated to begin in October.

EJE operates a landfill for construction demolition waste at its facility off U.S. 264 near Beaufort County.

It also operates a transfer station there for municipal solid waste, which it takes to Bertie County Landfill.

The permit issued two months ago by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources allows EJE to process 110 tons of waste per day during the pilot project, which will last from six months to a year.

“It's pretty much a pilot project to prove that this process works and that it is self-sustaining,” Whitehurst said.

According to the Virginia-based Gasification Technologies Council, gasification has been used for years on a commercial scale and by the electric power industry.

Heat generates a chemical reaction, but nothing is burned in the process. There are at least 132 large-scale gasification plants worldwide.

Wayne Bell, EJE's vice president, said residential household waste is prime fodder for this technology.

“It recycles about 95 percent of municipal waste,” Bell said.

If the pilot is a success, the facility will be expanded.

“It will create a lot of jobs for Pitt County in the near future,” Bell said.

Whitehurst and Bell touted the technology's ability to lessen the need for landfills while creating green energy.

Scott Poag, existing industries coordinator for the Pitt County Development Commission, termed it “cutting-edge technology.”

The success of the pilot would position Pitt County “center stage for debuting this new technology,” he said.

“If they're successful with it, it will definitely be a ground-breaking event in this field.”

Poag said that company officials have projected they might need to hire 75 new employees at some point.

Contact K.J. Williams at kwilliams@reflector.com or 252-329-9588.