Tech Profile: WERF Profiles Kore Infrastructure, an El Segundo Biosolids-to-Fuel Company

WERF’s LIFT program has profiled Kore Infrastructure and their biosolids to fuels system as part of a technology scan for resource recovery systems. LIFT stands for Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology.

Kore Infrastructure is developing a biosolids to liquid facility in Rialto and is scheduled to open it in the first quarter of 2016.

From WERF

What is your technology? 
KORE Infrastructure (KORE) is a service-based biosolids management solution that supports a diverse portfolio of disposal options available to wastewater agencies. KORE’s innovation is a three-stage thermochemical conversion process that transforms biosolids into valuable byproducts such as diesel fuel, electricity, biochar, and elemental sulfur. KORE has scaled down and re-engineered a historically proven large-scale industrial process to create a small footprint, modular, closed-loop system that is suitable for wastewater sector applications – unlocking the potential of biosolids to create sustainable energy resources.

Stage 1: Material Handling and Drying
The KORE process uses a fully odor-controlled, enclosed solids handling facility to receive biosolids. Biosolids are then conveyed through sealed conveyers into a commercially proven paddle dryer which converts moisture into water suitable for reuse while simultaneously preserving the BTU value of dry biosolids for optimal energy recovery. The material handling equipment is kept under vacuum with offgas odors removed via aqueous scrubbers and carbon filters to remove odors effectively.

Stage 2: Solid to Gas
Dry biosolids then enter the system through a series of airlocks where they are pyrolyzed at high temperature under vacuum conditions to generate an energy-dense pyrogas and biochar. Due to KORE’s compact modular design, the pyrolysis process can be installed, operated, and controlled with great flexibility. The pyrogas, adequate to meet the needs of the entire system, is scrubbed, cooled, and further conditioned to remove all hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants in order to prepare it for conversion to liquids or for heat and power generation.

Stage 3: Gas to Liquids
The pyrogas can be used as a heat source and/or a reactant in the liquefaction system to produce road-spec No. 2 diesel and petrochemicals. KORE utilizes heat generated within the process to catalytically crack methane and heavier hydrocarbons in the pyrogas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, a mixture known as synthesis gas.

KORE’s proprietary Fischer-Tropsch process catalytically converts the syngas under pressure to liquid hydrocarbons (synthetic crude oil) that can be separated onsite or offsite to produce the desired fuel. All fuel generated by the KORE process is certified as road-spec and is safely transported by tanker trucks.

What are the benefits to implementing your technology?
Under KORE’s performance-based contracting model, KORE commercializes the byproducts of its process to generate revenue that allows KORE to offer competitive biosolids disposal fees to municipal wastewater agencies.   KORE’s preferred method of business is design, build, and operate. KORE’s solution is fully financed and operated by KORE with no capital expense or technical risk to the utility customer. In addition to a cost-competitive biosolids management solution, KORE’s technology could have numerous benefits to a wastewater agency:

  • KORE’s technology mitigates air quality issues by avoiding emissions through the reduction of truck traffic associated with transporting biosolids to landfills and land application sites. Processing biosolids through a co-located or nearby offsite KORE facility can reduce the number of vehicle-miles typically traveled for biosolids disposal. Greenhouse gas emissions are further reduced by diverting biosolids from landfills.
  • Product outputs from the KORE process could create value for the wastewater agency such as a low-cost, long-term source of vehicle fuel. The KORE process generates a high-quality, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel that has been approved by the State of California for highway use. Wastewater agencies can significantly reduce vehicle fleet emissions through the use of KORE’s ultra-low sulfur transportation fuel.
  • The KORE process also generates a granular biochar as its only solid byproduct, expected to be less than 10% of the volume of wet cake biosolids. This biochar has properties comparable to activated carbon that can be of potential benefit as a low-cost removal solution for contaminants in liquid and vapor streams found in wastewater treatment plants.
  • A co-located KORE facility would enable KORE’s produced gas to be added to digester gas to produce more onsite electricity. Alternatively, digester gas could be used in the KORE process to produce more liquid fuels.

Has the technology been tested, demonstrated, or implemented to date?
KORE’s pilot facility was designed, built, and operated by KORE at the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts’ (LACSD) Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP) in Carson. KORE’s pilot facility operated for over five years and was the primary testing ground for designing, integrating, and optimizing the pyrolysis system and liquefaction stages of KORE’s thermochemical process. The culmination of this R&D was a long-term performance-based contract with the LACSD to manage a portion of JWPCP’s biosolids. Data derived from the pilot facility represents significant intellectual property that KORE has accumulated through thousands of hours of field testing, and gives KORE the confidence to offer a fully funded, reliable, performance-based biosolids management solution to the wastewater industry. This pilot plant serves as the empirical data basis of the commercial design for KORE’s first full-scale commercial facility which is set to begin operation in California in Q1 2016.

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Alec Mackie

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