Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  12 Sep 2010

VENTURES: Fuel From Waste In Philippi


Recent Western Cape Business News

A PHILIPPI-based company has completed its pilot phase on a waste material processing plant that intends to produce almost 10 000 tons a year of value added fuel by processing a range of waste materials.

Gecco Holdings is a company that holds its own internationally patented vacuum pyrolysis technology (VPT) for the conversion of a range of carbon and hydrocarbon containing waste materials into a variety of value-added oils and energy sources.

The company has already identified and tested feedstock material like used automotive oils, waste plastic (except PVC), noble scrap, scrap/waste tyres, municipal solid waste and medical waste.

Other already identified potential applications are contaminated soil remediation, marine grey water slops, tank bottom sludge recovery, oil from shale recovery as well as tar sands recovery.

The advantage for Gecco is that the end products are high value add and are an environmentally benign alternative energy source. The fuels are created from a renewable resource that has an emissions profile that is considerably better than fossil fuels.

Gecco CEO Michael Wurbach tells CBN that the company – which has already closed its first round of investor financing - has completed a comprehensive pilot testing phase of a number of feedstocks over more than five years.

During this period significant volumes of different feedstocks were tested. The results of these tests have lead to the full large scale commercialisation of the technology from a platform which could process approximately 150 tons per month to one where 800 ton per month or more could be efficiently and economically processed.”

Wurbach says that during this testing phase the viability and barriers to commercialisation for the various feedstocks were evaluated. “It was decided that Gecco’s first large scale commercial enterprise should be developed for the re-refining of automotive waste oil.”

Wurbach says although there are businesses which re-use or recycle waste oils nationally, the capability of Gecco’s technology is more sophisticated than a mere re-use or recycling application. “It can best be described as a full scale ‘clean-up’ of the waste oil allowing for the ‘reconstitution’ of the oil back to a formal base oil which can again be utilised in the formulation of a ‘new’ automotive oil.”

Wurbach suggests successes at Philippi will prompt further plant roll-outs countrywide.

The technology is modular and scalable. This should allow numerous small installations - which can be commissioned in a period of six months from commencement of engineering and scaled up as production volumes increase.

Having completed all the mandatory legislated authorisations needed to operate a large scale facility, we are currently in the build out phase for a facility located in Cape Town - which we trust will be the first of many to be established across the country.”

He says the Philippi re-refining facility is designed to process around 800 tons per month at full production. Annual output would be in the region of 9 600 tons a year.

But how viable is such a project? Wurbach notes that with most novel early stage businesses, the raising of capital is difficult. “Notwithstanding the comprehensive due diligences which Gecco was subjected too by our investors, the financials stood up to the demands of the new partners. This demonstrates, that despite being perceived as early stage, the risk/reward principle was attractive enough to convince them of the merit for the significant investment made.”

One thing is for certain, the supply of raw material should not be an issue with the Philippi plant situated in close proximity to sprawling townships like Guguletu, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Crossroads and Mitchells Plain. As such the technology provides waste collecting jobs for low-income individuals and benefits communities through waste clean up.

Gecco intends setting aside 25% of the equity over time for the community participants in the plant rollout strategy.

Gecco is also in the process of engaging a national waste management firm for facility management and waste oil supply to the first of eight envisaged new Gecco technology plants around SA.

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