GLENS FALLS — A Kansas company is looking for about 6 acres of land locally to build a plant that turns paper waste product into fertilizer, in what officials say will be the first commercial facility of this type in the country.
John Dowd, a partner with Smart Terra Care, appeared before the Warren-Washington Counties Industrial Development Agency Executive Committee on Wednesday to pitch his plan, which he said would create 20 local jobs.
He said the process would take sludge from companies such as Finch Paper and Irving Tissue and truck it to a facility, where it would be dried and heated up to create “biochar,” which is a type of charcoal that has no odors or pathogens.
About 60 percent of this biowaste is going to landfill, where it starts to degrade and release methane gases into the atmosphere. The waste material is also being incinerated, according to Dowd.
This waste costs about $80 to $100 per ton to dispose, according to Dowd.
He said his company’s process would save money for these companies.
“It’s a big expense for them and it’s really a waste of material because they’re filling up a landfill,” he said.
Dowd said the company was attracted to the Capital Region because of its large population center and the fact that people in the Albany area are interested in solving the problem of biowaste. The Glens Falls area in particular has a lot of paper mills.
The ballpark price tag for the plant is about $12 million.
Dowd said he is looking at two or three sites around the area, including the industrial park near the Warren County airport.
He said he needs about 6 to 7 acres to accommodate a 10,000-square-foot building that is about 20 to 30 feet tall. The plant would house two industrial dryers.
This sludge from the paper mills would be fed through drums, which heats the material up to 700 to 1,000 degrees to dry it. During this process, the water and chemicals are released, which creates heat. The facility would capture that heat to use as power.
A big dryer would squeeze out the moisture and a second, smaller driver would heat it up and take out the volatile organic compounds. The processed material would be sold as fertilizer.
Other uses for biochar are wastewater and sewage treatment, drinking water treatment, air and water filters and renewable bioenergy, according to a fact sheet provided by Dowd.
Committee members had questions about noise, odor and safety. IDA attorney Robert Morris said there have been a lot of complaints regarding the Royal Wood Shavings wood chipping operation in the industrial park.
Nothing like that would happen on this site, according to Dowd.
Dowd said the most noise would come from the back-up alarms from trucks at the site.
He estimated that there would be 18 to 20 truck deliveries daily.
“We’d operate 24 hours a day, probably six days a week,” he said.
Trucks would not remain at the site. They would dump their material and leave, according to Dowd.
Committee member Bruce Ferguson said he believed that a new building would actually cut down on noise from the RWS operation.
Committee member Bud Taylor inquired whether the process would give off any odor.
Dowd said there would be no stockpiling of material on site. Outside, there would be two three-sided bunkers where the material goes in. The bunker has a negative pressure system that will draw out the chemicals that cause the odor.
He said 70 percent of the material coming in is made up of water. People would see water vapor leaving the plant.
“You’d never smell anything,” he said.
The material coming out at the end of the process would be about five times smaller than what went in. About 15 tons of waste would yield about 3 tons of biochar.
Taylor also asked if there was risk of explosion.
Dowd said no. The biggest risk would be fire, because the material that comes out of the last drying unit is between 550 to 600 degrees. It then is cooled down.
The building would have a sprinkler system.
Dowd said there are a lot of applications for this process as more companies are looking to use more renewable products. Ford uses recycled materials in its vehicles.
“They want to make cars by 2025 that (are) totally recyclable — even the tires,” he said.
Dowd said he is working to obtain private financing for the project rather than seek any public tax money.
“We’d rather go with the investors because the potential of expanding this in other places is phenomenal,” he said.
Ferguson said the project would have to go before the town of Kingsbury for its review. He said the IDA engineer should review this proposal.
Ferguson volunteered to show properties in the industrial park to Dowd.
“We certainly want to look at what you have available and go from there,” Dowd said.
Committee members were impressed with the presentation.
“I think it’s an exciting concept,” Ferguson said.
The committee invited Dowd to make a presentation at the full Warren-Washington Counties IDA meeting, which will take place on at 4 p.m. Monday at the Washington County Municipal Center.