Most Innovative Companies: Enerkem

42  Enerkem

For finding the hidden power of trash

HEADQUARTERS

Montreal, Canada

WEB

Enerkem

 Waste not, want not? How about want more waste? Founded in 2000, Montreal-based Enerkem is currently building two commercial-scale plants that turn trash into fuel. The father-and-son team, Esteban and Vincent Chornet, has developed a proprietary thermo-chemical system that uses pressure, chemicals, and 800 degrees of heat to recycle 15 different kinds of trash into renewable electricity, chemicals for plastic, and ethanol that can run cars.

Most Innovative Companies Ernekem

III. OUTPUT

TRANSFORMING
TRASH'S CARBON
GAS INTO FUEL

Anticipated output of each Enerkem plant in construction, in gallons of ethanol, per year:
10 million
Gallons of ethanol produced by a ton of detergent bottles:
152 to 162
Gallons of ethanol produced by a ton of mixed trash: 95
Gallons of ethanol produced by a single sofa: 5.23

I. INPUT

ALL THAT TRASH

Tons of trash created annually worldwide:
1.3 billion
Tons of trash created annually in the U.S.:
250 million
Tons of trash landfilled annually in the U.S.:
135 million
Amount of gas produced (and wasted) annually by rotting trash in U.S. landfills:
27 billion cubic feet
Percentage by which Enerkem's plants can reduce the trash in a city's landfill: 90


II. WASTE

CARBON ENERGY
PRODUCED BY TRASH

Carbon content of plastics such as poly-ethylene (e.g., detergent bottles):
80% to 85%
Carbon content of pure biomass (e.g., paper, sawdust, yard clippings):
46% to 48%
Carbon content of mixed municipal waste (catalogs, detergent bottles, leftovers):
48% to 53%
Carbon content of a sofa: 55%
Carbon content of glass, copper, or iron: 0%

III. OUTPUT

TRANSFORMING
TRASH'S CARBON
GAS INTO FUEL

Anticipated output of each Enerkem plant in construction, in gallons of ethanol, per year:
10 million
Gallons of ethanol produced by a ton of detergent bottles:
152 to 162
Gallons of ethanol produced by a ton of mixed trash: 95
Gallons of ethanol produced by a single sofa: 5.23

I. INPUT

ALL THAT TRASH

Tons of trash created annually worldwide:
1.3 billion
Tons of trash created annually in the U.S.:
250 million
Tons of trash landfilled annually in the U.S.:
135 million
Amount of gas produced (and wasted) annually by rotting trash in U.S. landfills:
27 billion cubic feet
Percentage by which Enerkem's plants can reduce the trash in a city's landfill: 90


In the long term, this could be a powerfully positive solution for the 135 million tons of city trash that end up in landfills in the United States each year, from discarded sofas to plastic packaging. The Department of Energy estimates that, taken together, biomass--including municipal waste, construction rubble, and farm and yard waste--could fulfill more than 40% of our energy needs. At right, we look at the three-step process of turning basic household trash from landfills into fuel.

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