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Company creates gas cleanup process



March 21, 2011
Chris Gigley

Entire contents copyright 2011 by Crain Communications Inc. All rights reserved. This story was originally published on March 21, 2011
in Waste & Recycling News

Spurred by the 1996 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," a pair of New Jersey scientists developed an adaptable, easy-to-use gas cleanup process they said they believe can make landfills valuable energy resources.

The Stenger-Wasas Process, better known as the SWAP, is based on a low-temperature exothermic reaction of carbon dioxide in the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Both compounds are eliminated in the process, a result that took environmental engineer Ray Stenger and chemist Jim Wasas years of trial-and-error to figure out. Most of these tests occurred in Wasas' garage-turned-lab.

By 2007, the pair had the technology down pat, and a year later they formed Swapsol Corp. to market and sell it. That effort didn't begin in earnest until this January, when the company exhibited at the LMOP Conference and Project Expo, an annual event organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Landfill Methane Outreach Program. This year's LMOP conference was held Jan. 18-19 in Baltimore.

"In the interim, most of the effort was devoted to shoring up the technology and making sure we could prove that we had what we have," said Wolf Koch, Swapsol's director and senior adviser.

What Swapsol has is a versatile technology that offers users three options to clean up their sites. Users can use the SWAP to eliminate hydrogen sulfide and reduce carbon dioxide by having the two elements react with each other to produce water, sulfur and carbon-sulfur polymers.

Or, they can use the SWAP to create energy. The process can employ membrane reactors to convert hydrogen sulfide into hydrogen, which can then be used for fuel. Finally, clients can use the SWAP to eliminate hydrogen sulfide altogether by having air react with it, producing sulfur and water with no carbon-sulfur byproduct.

"The operator would have to make a choice up front which method fits their operation best," Koch said. "Then, through an engineering construction company, we would work on designing the proper installation for whatever the operator wants."

Koch said Swapsol initially looked at pitching the SWAP to oil refineries. But given the complexity of a refinery operation, he said the technology could take a long time to implement.

"After we looked at alternatives to prove the technology is commercially successful, we discovered that the landfill gas application is the best place to start because landfills are mostly stand-alone operations that don't require a complex setup," he said.

Hence their presence at the LMOP Conference several months ago, where Koch and Evan Howell, the company's executive vice president of marketing and communications, spent three days introducing themselves and the technology to the marketplace.

Koch said the biggest selling point to landfill operators is the ease of implementation. The SWAP requires very little integration into existing cleanup processes. Landfill operators, for instance, don't have to pre-separate hydrogen sulfide from construction and demolition debris and municipal solid waste, which lowers their operating costs for gas cleanup.

But Howell said what drew many conference attendees to their booth was the promise of the SWAP to reduce or eliminate hydrogen sulfide.
"Just a few years ago, hydrogen sulfide wasn't a point of contention," said Howell. "But thanks to government regulation changes, now the talk is all about reducing hydrogen sulfide levels, which is what the SWAP does."

Now, the SWAP is poised for commercialization. Howell said he and Koch are continuing talks with several potential pilot candidates they met in Baltimore, and Swapsol is in the midst of completing an independent engineering and comparative cost analysis. Their hope is to have the first commercial landfill application in place by the middle of the year.

"We're now deciding what our next step will be," said Koch.

Swapsol has already made tremendous strides. Those decisions Koch mentioned are being made in Swapsol's new lab facility in Eatontown, New Jersey, not Wasas' garage.

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