Our processes are Profitable, Clean & Sustainable Changing Liabilities (Waste) to Assets (Energy - Ethanol)

History and Development Stages

There are many chemical processes that have been found to work more beneficially when using super-heated water including those in the chemical and food industry in the extraction of instant coffee and for extracting indigo dye from woad.

Two of the more innovative uses though have been in the Dilute-Acid Hydrolysis of Celluloses and Starch to the Saccharides (dating to 1819), and in the Wet Air Oxidation of Waste Water (Sewage) Treatment Works for sludge and other complex organic chemicals which was first trialled in 1937.

The processes used by Genesyst in the conversion of biomass to high value product use both superheated water and dilute-acid hydrolysis. Bringing them together to optimise their benefits in one procedure was not considered until the later part of the 20th Century.

The earliest attempt to use the procedure on sludge was by Fred Zimmerman (from the USA) in a patented process for wet air oxidation for the destruction of sewage sludge and, hard to treat chemicals. It became known as the “Zimpro System.” However like many of the chemical and process treatment systems at the time it was developed as a batch process. Despite the disadvantages it was subsequently adopted in the USA during the mid 1950s to treat sewage sludge. Plants were copied and installed in Japan and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.

The treatment ability of an individual plant was limited because of the sequential batch processing needs. For large installations, multiple units in parallel were needed to off-set power consumption use.

Under the best operational conditions the power use was high and the destruction capacity was limited to around 60%. This incomplete treatment process produced significant odours from the plants often resulting in early closure.

Its use was therefore limited to small facilities or in installations (using multiple units) such as the case in California, Tilbury (UK) and Apeldoorn (Netherlands). Further development of the process was limited by 20 years because of potential patent infringements.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s research was restarted to look at the various options for making the process continuous. This started with a successful development of a U -Tube pressure vessel at the Lowery Air Force Base (by William J Bauer) using at first high pressure pumps and then gravity to maintain subcritical water.
sludge treatment
This was subsequently redeveloped in the 1970s with the Bow Valley (the J McGrew project) sponsored by the US EPA (EnvironmentalProtection Agency) at Longmont Colorado. Designed for 5 tonnes per day of sludge, it out-performed by so much, it had to be shut down more often than it was working. Its location was its draw-back. Had it been built at Boulder City the supply of sludge would have been less limited.

This plant was destined to be the most observed and monitored sludge treatment plant known.

When the Veluwe Water Board at Apeldoorn (Netherlands) wanted to upgrade their sludge treatment facility their familiarity with wet air oxidation (from their Zimpro facility in Apeldoorn Waste Water Treatment Plant) confirmed that this was the right approach particularly as it had been updated to a continuous procedure.
A team including a Civil Engineering Contractor Vijnan and Grontmij spent time in Longmont refining the process and with modifications and renewed patents (under H W Peterschenk and D R Silluruud) it was dismantled and subsequently reinstalled in Apeldoorn during 1990 and commissioned in 1991.
This facility became known as the VerTech Treatment Systems Aqueous Phase Oxidation (APO) Plant.

This project was a first in many ways. It was the first finance design build and operate contract facility in Europe. It was a contract with the Veluwe Water Board (the treatment plant owners) with tenure of 15 years. Cost was £16 million.

As an experimental plant it had extensive monitoring instruments valued at over £4 million to record every minute detail of the process in a complete computer record of its operations.

VerTech was asked to add an additional final effluent process treatment plant, to assist in supporting the over-loading of the existing sewage works, effectively isolating (or ring-fencing) the APO facility. This allowed VerTech to increase the sludge treatment capacity, thus enabling the company to import sludge to the facility from industry. This increased its utilisation time and its profitability by 40%

The facility was decommissioned for 6 months for this expansion. This allowed the insurers, Lloyds, to withdraw and inspect the VerTech Pressure Vess
APO Plant

There was no wear or corrosion observed in the feed pipe work and a camera inspection of the return updraft annular pipe again showed no corrosion or erosion. As a result the insurance premiums were reduced to a third and the plant was put back in to service.

On restarting operations the facility was further tested on a variety of sludge, including manure, oil contaminated soils and canal dredgings, as well as its primary duty. The VerTech facility out-performed its design capabilities and consistently achieved a 98% + sludge destruction capacity with a design horizon greater than 30,000 tonnes dry solids per year. Additional liquid and dry sludge was imported from up to 100 kilometres to meet this need.

In 1998 the Wijnan Group and Grontmij Consulting Engineers (joint owners of VerTech) sold their share to the Recycling and Land Fill Company VAR BV.

VAR BV was the final recipients of the sludge treatment plant residues from the Apeldoorn Plant and was engaged in operating the facility. VAR continued to work on the renamed VarTech facility viewing a new design which included a vacuum jacket instead of the superheated water jacket, but they were too late as this design had already been patented by James A Titmas, Founder of Genesyst Inc

Veluwe Water Board announced they had an alternative disposal route for its sludge from 2007 in Leipzig dumping it in old coal mine shafts for a €10.00 a dry tonne, less than 12% of their current charge.

Genesyst, after arranging a licensing agreement in 1992, took the opportunity to visit the site as often as possible, sometimes four times a month and often for three days at a time. These were organised for private research and for business development. This project was one of the most fully instrumented and monitored programme in sludge treatment in Europe. Full use was made of the additional instrumentation and probes in order to record and note the process and the effects of any operational changes within. It was possible to monitor the total processing within the pressure vessel at all depths in the reaction area.
When the VerTech Pressure Vessel was installed the injecting points for Oxygen were set at depths of 600, 900, 1100 and 1200 metres from the surface
Additional sensors were also included to record changes in the treatment process in temperature pressure and pH so that adjustments could be made to improve the operational performance.

Following these observations and an analysis of the chemistry behind the process, it was confirmed that the facility could be modified to convert the biomass in the sludge to its component parts by removing the oxygen supply altogether. In effect the facility would be operated anoxically in the hydrolysis mode even without the addition of a dilute acid.

Although this was not practiced at the site it did confirm that the future use of a similar facility would be clearly converting the biomass content of wastes to more useful products particularly through the sugar platform. At the same time it was agreed that for this mode of operation it could be at a shallower depth.

The full analytical work by James Titmas, Professor Dr. F Shafizadeh and Dr. A O Converse confirmed that this was a major benefit to the old batch process and that by this development the potential of maximising the output of Ethanol from Biomass to over 85 % and even the theoretical maximum was attainable. They also proposed that the Sulphuric Acid used for the process could be dispensed with in favour of using Carbonic Acid derived from the later fermentation plant.

All this together with prior investigatory analysis through Universities and laboratory testing completed the Peer Review that supported the patents.

It is also worth noting that a prior article on the use of Subcritical Water used in conjunction with Dilute-Acid Hydrolysis work was already known to them under the work “Non Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose in Supercritical and Subcritical Water under Tadafumi Adschiri, Satore Hirose, Roberto Malaluan and Kunio Arai on 25th March 1993. It has also been further researched by Taherzadeh and others as being a significant and added benefit to a process, and this has subsequently been acknowledged by many other research institutions in the field as critical development to the process that is needed.

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