Friday, January 20, 2012

Déjà vu: No Time for the Timid

This anecdote was shared by one of our members after his time at the West Coast Waste Conversion Congress:

A little over nine years ago, I was attending a conference sponsored by a genset company to gather information for a cow manure project I was considering. The presenter gave a great talk on his manure-to-digester gas project and I raced up to speak with him afterwards.

Eagerly shoving my card in his face, I told him that I had a similar project in the works and asked him if he would consider partnering with me.

“No,” was his flat response.

Stunned, all I could utter was “Why not?!”

“I’ve done one of these in my lifetime,” the presenter responded. “I have no reason to do two.”

He went on to describe all the financial and technical hurdles he had to overcome to see his project to fruition. Hearing him recount the many roadblocks he hit discouraged me and I later dropped the project, advising my clients that anaerobic digestion for animal waste-to-energy just wasn’t viable.

Needless to say, I missed that train. Anaerobic digestion is now a well-accepted practice and many people have made tidy profits off of projects relating to it.

I reflected on this as the West Coast Energy Conversion Congress came to a close. The conference perfectly illustrated the fact that we are still in the early days of gasification technology, giving me a strong sense of déjà vu to my time studying anaerobic digestion. Similar to then, the older technology (in this case, mass burn incinerators) has fallen out of favor and, although newer technologies with lower price points and cleaner emissions are on the horizon, they haven’t arrived yet.

But the real take-away lesson from the conference is that there are enough green technology advancements in the works, as well as plenty of brave developers trying to bring the projects to fruition. The sheer number of developers suggests that while many will fail, several will make it through to commercial and environmental viability. And I won’t scare so easy this time!

The above story is a perfect example of why Better BTU came into being. Our industry is growing and changing so fast and we feel that there isn’t a central place for communication on ideas, technologies and projects that work, don’t work, etc. That’s what we’ve come to be about: sharing information and working towards a greener future!  

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