SWACO turns trash to fuel

 SWACO Executive Director Ron Mills, Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks and FirmGreen CEO Steve Wilburn cut the ribbon on SWACO’s Green Energy Center on Sept. 15.

Green vehicle fuel made from trash is now reality. The ribbon has been cut on SWACO’s Green Energy Center next to 4109 London-Groveport Road in Grove City. The facility will convert landfill gas to compressed natural gas (CNG) for use in CNG powered cars and medium duty trucks.

"What once was an idea is now fuel to power America’s future" says SWACO Executive Director Ron Mills. "What was once waste is now energy to drive our economy. What once was considered the end of the line is now a starting point for economic development. Many times the answers to our problems are right in front of us, we just have to take a closer look."

SWACO’s $18-million Green Energy Center is a public-private partnership with FirmGreen Fuels LLC. Phase one of the center, which opened Monday, will produce enough compressed natural gas annually to replace almost 250,000 gallons of gasoline plus additional natural gas sufficient to generate electricity for its own operation. The center will reduce carbon emissions an amount equal to more than 15,000 barrels of oil or 630,000 gallons of gasoline per year. The CNG will be used initially to fuel SWACO vehicles. In the next three years SWACO plans to covert at a minimum of nine fleet vehicles to CNG power.  

SWACO is also working to establish a consortium of governments, schools districts and private companies that are interested in adding CNG vehicles to their fleets. The CNG will be available at a gasoline gallon equivalent rate of less than $3.   

There is currently a 30-year supply of gas in SWACO’s Franklin County Landfill. Phase one of the green energy will tap approximately 8 percent of that supply.

"We take pride in the fact that the technology which will make our Green Energy Center unique is Ohio grown by Acrion Technologies of Cleveland, " said Mills. "We are excited to show the world that the Greater Columbus region is ready to answer the call when it comes to our green future. This is not only power to drive our cars and trucks, it is power to drive the imagination and in the process we are reducing our impact on the environment."   

Mills said that there are around 100 landfills across the United States similar in size to SWACO’s landfill.

"Just think of how we could reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign energy if we harness the power of those other landfills."

"What started four years ago as a vision has become reality. By making use of waste gases generated from SWACO’s landfill, we will produce renewable transportation fuels and skilled jobs for Ohio," says Steve Wilburn, founder and CEO of FirmGreen, Inc.   

SWACO also provides consumers recycling opportunities around Franklin County through 212 recycling drop off-locations, at major sporting and entertainment venues, at Columbus City Schools, The Columbus Arts Festival and other locations. For more information, log onto www.swaco.org.


Quick facts of SWACO’s Green Energy Center

•Phase one of SWACO’s Green Energy Center will produce enough CNG to replace 685 gallons of gasoline daily or almost 250,000 gallon annually.

•Natural gas from SWACO’s Green Energy Center will produce electricity to power the building itself.

•SWACO will be able to sell/deliver CNG at a gasoline equivalent rate of less than $3 a gallon. Less than $2 a gallon equivalent when sold at the Green Energy Center. SWACO’s CNG prices are not subject to market conditions because the product and technology have known costs.

•SWACO’s Franklin County Landfill currently has enough trash to produce natural gas for over 30 years. Phase one of SWACO’s Green Energy Center will use just 8 percent of the currently available gas.

•SWACO plans to convert nine vehicles of its fleet in the next three years to CNG. However the technology now exists which could accelerate the fleet conversion.

•SWACO’s Green Energy Center will reduce carbon emissions by an amount equal to more than 15,000 barrels of oil or 630,000 gallons of gasoline per year.

•SWACO’s Green Energy Center is in partnership with FirmGreen Fuels of California. Any Natural Gas produced at the Green Energy Center (phase one) not used by SWACO will be purchased by FirmGreen. Phase two of the Green Energy Center will be constructed by FirmGreen. It is currently slated to produce pipeline quality natural gas for sale to private industry.

•SWACO’s Green Energy Center uses a process invented by Acrion Technologies of (Cleveland) Ohio to clean landfill gas and turn it into CNG.

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