$50M Trash-to-Gas Plant in Works

$50M Trash-to-Gas Plant in Works
(MD Power)

A $50 million landfill waste-to-energy gasification plant is coming to Chicot County, making it the first of its kind in the South.

MD Power LLC of Lakeland, Florida, will build and operate the plant, which won’t burn trash, but rather heat it to gasify the solid waste, said Shane Knight, deputy director of the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, which assisted MD Power in coming to Arkansas.

The process creates a synthetic gas that’s later combusted on the property, turning a turbine to generate energy that can be sold.

The remaining metal that isn’t gasified through the process can be recycled. The other byproducts also can be sold to cement companies to make concrete 30% harder, Knight said.

“So when the waste stream is processed through this facility, we have a zero percent landfill rate,” he said.

Chicot County will enter into a 30-year lease agreement with MD Power for 10 acres on Chicot County’s 40-acre landfill. A ribbon-cutting and contract-signing ceremony is scheduled for Friday.

MD Power will pay Chicot County $1 per ton of trash that enters the facility. The county and other counties that have contracts with MD Power will receive a rebate of $3.75 per ton of trash that is sent to the facility, Knight said. The tipping fee within the 10 counties of the southeast Arkansas district is $45 a ton.

Several counties in southeast Arkansas have agreed to send their waste to the facility, Knight said. And municipalities outside of Arkansas are also interested in sending waste to the facility.

“This provides the counties now a 30-year stable end source for recycling of all of their waste stream,” Knight said. “They’re not going to be dependent upon landfills.”

The plant will have the capacity to convert 500 tons of landfill waste a day.

MD Power’s revenue also will come from fees from users who want to dispose of material at the plant.

Knight said farmers can haul their used tires to MD Power for disposal. “We have an issue with tires in the state,” Knight said. About 50% of the tires end up in landfills because there aren’t many places to recycle them, he said.

“This facility will accept whole tires and process those 100%, leaving just the steel, and that will be recycled,” he said.

Knight said counties will be able to attract companies to the area by touting the benefits of the facility. “This is going to help those companies who service industries that are looking to enhance the viability of their carbon credits,” he said.

MD Power President Mark Boswell said the company will use private money to pay for the project. Knight said MD Power also is considering applying for tax credits.

Boswell said that after the contracts are signed he will start the application process for permits with the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality.

The plant will employ about 25 to 30 workers. Boswell said he doesn’t think it will be difficult to find them. “If you give a good salary and good benefits, you’ll be able to hold onto them,” he said.

Construction on the project is expected to start in August with a completion date about 16 to 18 months later, Knight said.

‘It’s a Quiet Facility’

Boswell said he wanted Arkansas to be one of the first states to have the plant. “We have a lot of ties there in Arkansas,” he said. Boswell had spent time in Arkansas years ago and one of MD Power’s employees is from Arkansas.

Boswell, a former physical education teacher in Kentucky, became involved in the waste-to-energy industry about seven or eight years ago, he said.

MD Power and Knight began meeting last year. In March, Knight led a delegation to MD Power’s prototype facility in Inez, Kentucky, which began operating in 2018 and processes up to 440 tons of landfill waste a day.

The county judges were impressed with the facility, Knight said. “It’s a quiet facility,” he said. “There’s no smell.”

Knight said putting trash in the ground is an outdated method to deal with waste. “But it’s what we do,” he said. “I mean, you’re taking up good land; you’re putting garbage in it.”

He said he hopes MD Power’s plant changes that. “Once we show how this is done and how easy it is, my hope is that it spreads statewide,” Knight said.