Back in the old days, the recycling industry seemed so easy. If I wanted to find out what markets were like, I could call up a few recyclers, and they would tell me what their local consumers were buying, what they were paying and what the transportation terms were. I might pick up a few trends and tips along the way, but it seemed so simple. Yes, there was more to it than that, but it seemed more clear-cut. Business was local; events taking place three states over, let alone a continent away, often had little impact on many recyclers’ daily business.
How things have changed.
Now, when I call recyclers to discuss market conditions, they are likely to mention the impact the relative strength of the U.S. dollar is having on export and import markets; the economic stability throughout Europe; what a slowing Chinese economy means for their businesses; interest rate fluctuations and how they hurt or help their particular material; the price of oil; local, state or federal legislation and regulations; and how financial houses are driving prices for many secondary commodities. For many recyclers, all of this information is needed to figure out what markets are doing and where they are headed in the short term. It is almost as if you have to read the Wall Street Journal to understand what is happening in the recycling industry.
But, as the world economy lurches about, looking for direction, recyclers are becoming far more cognizant of how recyclables fit in. To know where markets are heading, recyclers are analyzing a host of economic factors. More managers stay in daily contact with a number of sources to monitor daily price gyrations.
For long-time recyclers, the need for a wider perspective can seem quite jarring. Having to synthesize a disparate amount of information to conduct business daily creates many challenges. Yes, the influx of MBAs and lawyers into the recycling business is providing professional education to an industry that used to operate on “gut instinct” and personal relationships. However, many long-time recyclers are not necessarily intimidated by the flurry of charts, statistics and information they are now consuming to determine where recycling markets are heading. One thing that is quite apparent is that recyclers are willing and, in fact, very adept at adapting to a new business environment.
Recycling Today apologizes for the error.
|Landfill mining at Fauquier County is scheduled three to six months per year to balance fines generation with landfill cover soil requirements.|
Today’s landfill mining projects range from efforts to recover valuable material fractions, such as ferrous scrap, to attempts to save space and reuse landfill cover dirt. Local economics and infrastructure can lend themselves to the mining concept, as some success stories illustrate.
One such project was conducted on a 2.5-acre site at the Perdido Landfill in Escambia County, Fla. That area, an unlined cell, was mined as a pilot project between June and November 2008. According to the county, 54,300 yards of the landfill were mined. Different processing techniques were used to evaluate the ability to segregate the fines fraction (consisting mostly of soil and degraded waste) from the oversized fraction.
At Perdido, directly screening excavated materials using a trommel was found to be more effective than shredding the material and passing it over a vibratory screen. However, recyclable commodities eventually were no longer separated, says Pradeep Jain, project manager with Innovative Waste Consulting Services, Gainesville, Fla. He says the quality of the materials did not justify sorting.
Still, 38,000 cubic yards of soil was reclaimed as a result of the project. The reclaimed soil was recycled daily as intermediate cover on the internal slopes of the active landfill cell.
“We tried to recover material, but the quality of the material was not good enough for us to process,” Jain says.
Landfill mining will continue because land use is becoming increasingly restrictive, but local situations always will determine the need and viability of such a project, says Michael T. Dorsey, Fauquier County director of environmental services, Warrenton, Va.
“The justification for landfill mining will vary by community and specific situation,” Dorsey says. “Materials recovery for recyclable sales may not offset expenses, but if a community operates a WTE (waste to energy) [facility] with unused capacity, creating airspace via mining may be viable. Another community may find it difficult or impossible to site a new landfill, so a mining operation may be a practical solution. Fauquier County’s landfill needs additional cover soil, so fines recovery is very important,” he adds.
Fauquier County is trying to beneficially use recovered fines. “Mining is scheduled only three to six months per year to balance fines generation with landfill cover soil requirements,” Dorsey says. “We’re in our second year of a pilot demonstration period and, if successful, plan a long-term seasonal operation.”
Materials recovered from MSW (municipal solid waste) are typically ferrous metals, plastic, wood, rubber and a fines fraction. A limited number of studies have characterized material recovered from an MSW landfill with respect to composition. Cover soil and degraded organic waste constitute 50 percent to 85 percent of the recovered material on a weight basis. This is based on analysis done in Alachua County, Fla.
“There are lots of opportunities to recover commodities if the market is right,” says Bob Wallace, principal and vice president of client solutions for WIH Resource Group Inc. (WIH) and Waste Savings Inc., Phoenix. He sees a focus on plastics and metals, in particular, in older landfills prior to the introduction of recycling efforts.
At Perdido Landfill, Jain says the plan was to dig up the garbage, run it through a trommel to screen out the soil and sort for ferrous, plastics and other salable products. “Most of the volume was plastics,” he says. “Ferrous was not a lot volume-wise but by weight it represented a decent fraction.”
Because recyclable material was heavily intermingled with the dirt, it presented a challenge. The material also was quite wet when it was mined.
Herein lies lesson one for those considering reclamation of recyclables in an existing landfill. Jain says, “Unless you have a MRF (material recovery facility) on site and you can co-process the incoming waste stream with the reclamation material, it will be difficult to do.”
Dorsey agrees. “Typically, landfill mining as a stand-alone operation is not economical,” he says.
“Recovering and selling recyclables from mining can partially offset operating expenses, but other landfill mining justifications/benefits include recovering landfill capacity, cover material, environmental remediation and possibly deferring closure expenses,” Dorsey continues.
In short, those people with experience in landfill mining projects suggest that landfill operators keep their eyes open for other related savings targets.
Collier County, Fla., saved roughly $350 million in valuable landfill air space as part of a landfill mining and reclamation project. The county did its own work targeted at reclamation and lays claim to having the first planned reclamation project, conceived in the 1980s. Reclamation work, however, did not begin until the 21st century.
Originally, cells one and two of the Collier County Landfill were unlined disposal areas covering 32 acres. The cells are near the northeast corner of the landfill and were filled with solid waste from 1976 through 1979. They have subsequently been closed by the county and covered with a soil cap.
Full-scale reclamation of the 22-acre landfill was underway in December 2007 and was successfully completed ahead of schedule and within the allotted budget, at less than $7 million, in September 2008.
The Collier County project was so successful that the Solid Waste Management Department received two awards for the reclamation of cells one and two. The department earned the Solid Waste Association of North America
(SWANA) 2010 Landfill Reuse Excellence Award and was recipient of the Sustainable Florida Collins Center for Public Policy 2010 Best Practice Award.
About 10 acres of the southwest corner of cells one and two were mined. The project recovered 50,000 tons of soil suitable for landfill cover. The total volume of waste and soil buried was estimated to be 378,922 bulk cubic yards, and the total volume of waste and soil excavated was estimated to be 473,715 loose cubic yards.
At Perdido, the overall soil fraction of excavated material was more than 70 percent, suggesting that substantial airspace may be recycled for additional waste disposal at the site and that some of the site’s daily cover procurement costs may be avoided by using screened fines during a full-scale mining, thus offsetting some of the large-scale mining project costs.
WIH Resource Group’s research finds that landfill mining is not typically motivated by materials recovery in the traditional sense of turning aluminum to cash. Instead, landfill mining is often motivated by more than one goal or desired outcome of the mining project, Wallace says.
“Projects would be more viable if they accomplished more than one thing—for example, recovery of metals, providing fuel for a waste-to-energy facility, postponing a landfill closure and/or remediating a landfill with environmental problems,” he states. “Most projects will only find a small subset of these benefits to be relevant—of course, everything is subject to change,” Wallace adds.
Landfill mining also has been considered to recover refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from a landfill site for combustion at a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility. For example, the Frey Farm Landfill in Lancaster County, Pa., mined a lined cell. Recovered material from the site was sent to a nearby WTE facility to be converted to fuel.
In Ohio, several operations have been established to provide RDF for energy recovery. However, most of them are sourcing their materials from the original waste stream.
Landfill mining also has been proposed as a step subsequent to a bioreactor landfill operation.
The economic viability of RDF is a cost issue and will vary by community, Dorsey says. “In Fauquier County’s situation, recovered material will not achieve the high quality that’s required for RDF, and disposal via WTE is not economical with associated hauling and disposal expenses.”
However, Dorsey adds that if a community has ready access to a WTE facility, RDF may be viable for energy and volume reduction.
Jain notes that the Lancaster County project set out to recover waste for WTE from the outset.
Like most WTE plants, the county’s facility was designed to process more material than would be available early in the plant’s life cycle. The county started mining the landfill to provide an additional source of WTE material.
Research found that the Btu (British thermal unit) content of the reclaimed waste was lower than the Btu content of fresh material. However, when the waste stream catches up with the plant’s capacity in a decade, much of the usable material in the landfill will have been profitably used.
Although landfill mining has not caught fire across the United States, Wallace finds that in Europe, where they have a need for property in certain areas, the idea has been embraced.
“It is also great for a small (closed) landfill—less than 10 acres—that can be removed and developed into a better end use,” he says, pointing to examples such as a project in Oxnard, Calif., where a developer wanted to move a 4-acre closed landfill to construct condos on the site.
“In our experience as an industry consulting firm based in the USA and through our independent research, with current technology and prices, landfill mining is generally not economically viable here,” Wallace says. “The benefits, such as revenue from sale of recovered metals [and] reduction in regulatory costs, generally do not outweigh the costs,” he adds.
WIH Resource Group has done some small studies on the subject for both public and private sector clients.
“We have watched private sector clients move waste during construction at their landfills and in some remedial situations, but it is not a common procedure for private companies,” according to Wallace. “It’s very expensive, causes odors and disrupts landfill operations of active sites.”
Heavy metals and contaminants always are a concern at landfills. Digging into an old landfill profile in an attempt to recover material can awaken sleeping dogs in the form of dangerous materials, sources warn.
Metals and hazardous waste has not been an issue to date in Fauquier County’s mining operation. “However, TPH (total petroleum hydrocarbons) have been higher in the fines fraction than what is considered ‘clean’ fill,” Dorsey says. The source could be oil filters, asphalt shingles or pavement, he offers.
“Our approach is to use the fines as landfill cover with continued testing over time to evaluate how this material changes (breaks down),” Dorsey says.
At Perdido, that was not a major problem, either. “We screened soil to recover the active area,” Jain says. Because the soil did not leave the landfill, there was no real concern.
In work at a different landfill in Florida, however, samples collected for analysis showed elevated levels of arsenic. “Overall, it was not too bad,” Jain says of the results. Still, possible contaminants are another area to check before going full-tilt into any recovery operation.
Transportation costs are increasing because of higher equipment and fuel costs. Despite that, trucking is typically the only practical hauling method for material relocation, according to sources contacted.
Since Fauquier County is only in its second year of its pilot landfill mining operation, Dorsey says he does not yet have a firm handle on the project’s costs. He continues to adjust the project’s operations plan.
“We’re trying to recover 1.3 million cubic yards of landfilled airspace to combine with another 2.7 million cubic yards to develop future landfill capacity of 4 million cubic yards,” Dorsey says. This would extend the landfill’s life by 20 or more years—and that’s the sort of payoff that has more operations looking at landfill mining.
“Higher tipping fees might make the process more economical, however,” Wallace says. Higher costs for landfill closures might help.
“If the prices for secondary materials increase further, it might make landfill mining more feasible,” he says. “The single largest thing that could enhance landfill mining would be a breakthrough in the cost of remediation and processing of the materials with value for resale in the commodities markets.”
Most efforts at landfill mining reflect circumstances specific to a particular location or facility. “Because costs often outweigh benefits, landfill mining on a commercial scale will probably not catch on in the near future,” Wallace concludes.
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Processors and traders of scrap metal have plenty of tasks to address within the realm of things that they can control without compounding their burden by worrying about the things they cannot control.
The volatile price of copper has become such an overriding part of the red metals recycling sector that attempts to control its influence via hedging have become a critical part of doing business. Essentially, traders and processors will incur the effort and expenses it takes to exert some degree of control to this “beyond their control” element.
While hedging has been a helpful tool, scrap processors and traders remain attentive to the ups and downs of the copper market and to the array of factors that can cause the price of copper to rise and fall.
A consistent condition for scrap processors and traders around the world has been demand for red metal scrap.
Before China’s emergence as the world’s foremost producer of copper and copper products, stagnant economic conditions in Europe or North America would have been the prevailing influence on the price of copper scrap in those regions.
When China began to ramp up the dramatic economic reforms that began in 1978, its demand for copper grew by leaps and bounds.
The economic reforms, which began with a handful of free-trade zones, have unleashed a dragon as powerful as any in ancient mythology. From 1978 to 2010, China’s economy has grown by a percentage that is difficult to calculate. (“Almost a hundredfold” is how one economist quoted by China Daily in 2009 characterized it.)
With an annual average GDP growth of 10.5 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China has been the indisputable champion of economic growth in the prior decade.
In the basic materials sector, part of that growth (as readers of this publication can attest) has been fueled by scrap materials imported from the United States and other nations.
Although there remain business cycles and ups and downs (and notwithstanding the sub-prime-mortgage-induced crisis of 2008 in the United States), scrap recyclers have enjoyed a remarkably healthy demand for their materials for more than 10 years, and often China is a leading cause.
But, in business as in life, all good things must come to an end. Even as they have enjoyed the boom of the past 10 or more years, recyclers find themselves asking: What happens as some of the factors causing Chinese scrap metal, paper and plastic buyers to need this material begin to change? What might be the effects when Chinese buyers start backing away from the table, either because of reduced appetites or because they have the ability to satisfy their appetites with materials from closer to home?
China’s rapid economic development is considered by economists as far and away the leading cause of the commodity price surge of the past 12 years, whether for ores, energy resources or scrap materials. A nation of 1.3 billion people growing its GDP year after year in the range of 8 percent to 10 percent has had a massive impact on the size of the world’s demand for steel, copper and paper industries.
According to the Lisbon-based International Copper Study Group (ICSG), global production of refined copper stood at slightly more than 17 million metric tons in 2006. Just five years later, in 2011, that total had climbed to just less than 20 million metric tons, with Asia almost entirely responsible for the growth.
Among the more remarkable side effects has been that even after U.S. construction fell dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis, copper (and copper scrap prices) recovered quickly as export buyers continued to seek out red metal scrap.
In previous decades, if the U.S. construction sector caught a cold, the copper scrap market sneezed along with it.
After the past several years, recyclers and traders of scrap materials in North America are paying far more attention to the health of the Chinese economy, figuring that if China catches cold, the symptoms are certain to travel overseas.
The rate at which apartment towers, office buildings and transportation arteries are being constructed in China is now of utmost interest to scrap recyclers, because these metals-intensive activities ultimately rely on scrap feedstock.
As well, the growth of a middle class with purchasing power in China has been a boon to the electronics and small appliance industries there. Although these smaller items may use copper by the ounce, the ounces add up to pounds and tons when considering the development of a middle class the size of China’s.
Determining the ongoing level of demand intensity for copper and red metal scrap in China is a critical variable in determining how long copper can retain its lofty pricing.
Many traders, analysts and commentators are not convinced that demand levels or supply constraints alone have caused copper to trade in its historically high range of the past several years.
Commodity-based investment instruments, some focused on copper, have become a common and growing part of many institutional investment portfolios.
In North America, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) like Horizons BetaPro ETFs, “are designed to track the performance of a specified underlying index, commodity or benchmark,” according to Toronto-based Horizons.
The company’s Comex Copper ETF is designed “to correspond to the performance of the Comex Copper futures contract for a subsequent delivery month,” according to an online description of the investment product. “If the Comex Copper ETF is successful in meeting its investment objective, its net asset value should gain approximately as much, on a percentage basis, as any increase in the Comex copper futures contract for a subsequent delivery month when the Comex copper futures contract for that delivery month rises on a given day,” the description continues.
Conversely, of course, the ETF’s net asset value “should lose approximately as much, on a percentage basis, as the Comex copper futures contract for a subsequent delivery month when the Comex copper futures contract for that delivery month declines on a given day.”
Such investment instruments have been successful in attracting funds in the past several years. Institutional investors looking for alternatives to the collapsed mortgage market or even corporate securities have shifted funds into commodity ETFs, sensing they can receive a safe return as long as the emerging economies of China and other nations continue to consume raw materials.
From July to October 2011, investors in such funds went through a difficult stage, though if they stayed with the Horizons Comex Copper ETF beyond last October, they have seen that investment regain some of its value.
Instruments that allow investors to be bearish on copper also have emerged, such as “short copper” ETFs. Like most forms of investment, the confidence placed in a financial instrument still correlates to economic conditions.
The result seems to have been that those investing in copper ETFs may have helped drive up the price of copper, but their continued investment is still based on the fundamentals of the physical construction and purchase of buildings, cars, appliances and other goods and services in China and elsewhere.
While ETFs and other indirect investments in copper may be a new twist, investors still need to be either bullish or bearish on the fundamentals of supply and demand.
Scrap recyclers and traders thus far in 2012 have had mixed opinions regarding supply and demand for red metal scrap.
As of late June, Fernando Duranti of Italy’s Leghe & Metalli International S.r.l., in a report prepared for the Mirror publication produced by the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR, www.bir.org), described demand in Italy as tepid.
“The brass rod market has been slowed by the absence of demand from consumers,” writes Duranti. “Bronze ingots are moving slowly but continuously because this industry is probably the most active in its production of semi-finished products destined for export.”
In the Netherlands, Anton van Genuchten of Reukema Recycling reports in the BIR’s Mirror that “Copper scrap in general is very much sought after, and the big mills in Europe are facing a situation where they have to reduce discounts to get enough material.” He also says there is a “lower availability of scrap” in many areas and large processors and brokers are having “difficulty in fulfilling their quantity requirements.”
Andy Wahl of Newell Recycling LLC, East Point, Ga., refers to supply strains as an issue in his Mirror report. “Export buyers are plentiful for all grades of nonferrous scrap, but there is very little material to offer on our side,” writes Wahl. “The strong drop in ferrous pricing has also led to a decrease in nonferrous scrap collection,” he adds.
Although 2012 has provided uncertainty regarding copper, one recycler says that doesn’t really make it different from any other year.
The author is editorial director of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at email@example.com. This article first appeared in Recycling Today’s sister publication Recycling Today Global Edition.
Many major fleet-operating companies are at least dabbling in using compressed natural gas (CNG) to power the vehicles in their fleets. It makes sense. CNG-fueled vehicles produce about 75 percent less carbon monoxide (CO) emissions and they cost less to fill up.
CNG-fueled vehicles run cheap—typically one-third below the cost of gasoline or diesel fuel. As an additional benefit, CNG trucks run 50 percent quieter than diesel trucks.
“Using CNG makes us more competitive,” says Michael Benedetto, president and CEO of TFC Recycling Corp., Chesapeake, Va. “Lower fuel costs allow us to do the job more efficiently and at a lower operating cost than our competitors.”
One of the cleanest fuels, CNG reduces particulate matter emissions to nearly zero, carbon monoxide emissions by 75 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 49 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent, Benedetto says.
As the first private recycler to embrace CNG in Virginia, TFC Recycling was recognized by state officials for the company’s commitment to alternative fuels. “We provide support to our municipal customers as they work to convert their fleets to CNG,” Benedetto says.
TFC says it is the only privately owned recycling company in Virginia to operate CNG trucks.
Waste Pro USA, Longwood, Fla., has converted trucks in New Orleans, Atlanta and the Florida cities of Clearwater and, most recently, Fort Pierce to CNG. John J. Jennings, president and CEO of the firm, says Waste Pro saves anywhere from 30 percent to the low-40-percent range on fuel costs. Waste Pro has had CNG vehicles in the fleet since late in 2011. “It’s still too early to determine exact savings,” Jennings says. However, he says he expects the final numbers to be somewhere in that range.
Even given the costs of conversion and establishing CNG fueling stations, Jennings says he expects the company to see a return on the company’s investment in about 30 months.
If there is a grandfather among residential hauling companies using CNG, honors go to Waste Management Inc. (WM), Houston. “This is not our first rodeo,” quips Wes Muir, director of corporate communications for WM. “We’ve been involved in natural gas since the mid-1990s. We now have the largest CNG fleet in the industry.”
WM entered the natural gas business after asking how the company could extract more value from the waste stream. WM started in California with liquid natural gas (LNG) before moving to CNG. In 2009, WM started a joint venture with Linde North America at the Altamonte, Calif., landfill to recover 13,000 gallons per day of LNG.
Today, the company fuels 300 collection vehicles from that site in California. But WM also has another 1,200 vehicles across the country, including in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and the upper Midwest, running on CNG. Recently, WM added 45 CNG vehicles to its Camden, N.J.-based fleet. They cover collection routes in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties. Deploying these vehicles will help WM achieve its goal of reducing fleet emissions by 15 percent and increasing fuel efficiency by 15 percent by 2020, the company says.
Not only does CNG cost less than diesel fuel but it requires a simpler after-treatment system, and domestic supplies are abundantly available, says Curtis Dorwart, Mack vocational marketing product manager.
Although WM started with LNG, the company soon realized CNG was the way to go. Noting that collection trucks are increasingly expensive, Eric Woods, vice president, fleet and logistics, for WM, says, “We need to get more out of the vehicles we buy.” WM set a goal of reducing fuel consumption and cutting emissions by 50 percent by 2020. Woods is bullish on beating that goal as long as WM continues to convert its fleet to CNG.
WM looked at hybrids and at improvements in diesel technology but opted for CNG.
The benefits of CNG in reducing CO2 (carbon dioxide) and NOX (nitrogen oxide) are most powerful at slow speeds.
“At low speeds, we see a 60 percent to 80 percent improvement with CNG versus a 2010 diesel,” Woods says. However, that advantage fades at highway speeds. At 55 mph, it drops to 15 percent. “But there is a massive advantage around town,” Woods emphasizes.
Jennings says he got the incentive to move to CNG from none other than T. Boone Pickens, the famous oil man. “A number of us were invited to his ranch. He challenged everyone to start looking at ways to save money and keep it from flowing out of the country,” Jennings recalls. In short, Pickens challenged the fleet owners to use American fuels and keep that money in the U.S. economy.
That, Jennings says, was his No. 1 reason for moving to CNG. However, saving his company one-third on its fuel costs is icing on the cake.
Benedetto agrees. “At an average of $1.25 per gallon equivalent, CNG is less expensive than diesel and is a true domestic fuel,” he says. “We are reducing our dependency on foreign oil, one truck at a time.”
TFC’s fleet consists of 40 trucks. Currently six of them, put into operation in 2011, run on CNG. TFC says it will add five more CNG trucks this summer and five additional trucks by year’s end.
Ironically, in the face of all the CNG popularity, there is a move among natural gas producing companies to export U.S.-sourced gas. Faced with domestic complaints that exporting natural gas would certainly cause a price jump at home, at press time, Congress was considering a ban on such exports beyond the one company that already has approval to export natural gas.
So why isn’t everyone running CNG vehicles? Well, for one thing, CNG fueling stations are not exactly on every corner. If a company runs a fleet with just a couple of trucks, it probably is not ready to risk its mobility on a single, local CNG fueling point. The big boys can afford to stock multiple fuels, including diesel, gasoline and CNG or to build CNG stations. In fact, those who are going whole-hog frequently are do-it-yourself fuelers.
“The main drawback with CNG has been with not having the infrastructure in place to support the fueling or the maintenance of CNG vehicles,” Benedetto says. “TFC is providing solutions to those problems by installing CNG fueling stations and through the certification and training of its mechanics.”
Waste Pro also is building its own fueling stations. “You need a critical mass of 20 to 25 vehicles to maximize return,” Jennings says. At the company’s new 12-acre facility in Fort Pierce (it opens in August 2012), Waste Pro is allowing public access for fueling. It is a bonus for Waste Pro and an opportunity for firms with undersized fleets to take advantage of CNG’s benefits.
WM has followed a similar filling station strategy for some time. The company has 29 fueling stations nationwide and says it expects to have 50 by the end of the year. “We’ve been able to debunk the myth of expensive fueling,” Woods says. “We’ve taken the cost out of the station.”
Not long ago, the estimate for a CNG fueling facility was $3 million. However, WM is doing a trailerized version of the filling station for about $500,000.
“It’s very important that customers don’t base a decision to purchase natural-gas-powered trucks solely on the lower fuel price,” Dorwart cautions. “They must fully understand the investment and do their due diligence to understand the fueling process and ensure their facilities can safely accommodate the natural gas trucks.”
What CNG Is
According to petroleum engineers at BP, natural gas—the source of natural gas liquids—is a natural mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons found in the ground or obtained from specially driven wells.
The composition of natural gas varies in different parts of the world. Even so, its chief component, methane, makes up 80 percent to 95 percent of its composition. The balance is varying amounts of ethane, propane, butane and other hydrocarbon compounds.
Methane, made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, is a simple hydrocarbon with the symbol CH4. It is lighter than air and normally dissipates quickly if released into the air, according to CNGo Co., Pennsylvania. Typical gasoline has a more complex chemical composition of C8H18. Many more chemical bonds must be broken and recombined to fully burn gasoline or diesel fuel. Unfortunately, CNGo engineers note, these fuels don’t get completely converted to carbon dioxide and water, resulting in more pollution than cleaner burning natural gas.
CNG typically is sold in gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs), with each GGE having the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. Vehicles using CNG usually have similar or better fuel economy ratings than standard gasoline or diesel vehicles. Current pricing at the Camden “Clean N’ Green Fuel” station is in the range of $1.759 per GGE.
Supporters say CNG is not as susceptible to the vagaries of OPEC-style pricing strategies. Diesel and gasoline have jumped 40 percent in price in the past year despite flat demand. In comparison, CNG is a domestically sourced fuel with stable supplies and more predictable long-term pricing, supporters say.
“The more trucks you get, the better the savings,” Jennings says. A multi-stop visit to several California fleet operations convinced him that the fleets were finding longer engine life and much quieter and cleaner operation. Cleaner goes beyond air pollution.
Dorwart explains that CNG-powered trucks tend to be quieter than traditional diesel trucks because the combustion process produces less noise than diesel engines. There are other advantages.
“It is much cleaner for the drivers since they are not filling up with diesel,” Jennings explains. There is no splashing or spilling fuel. CNG vehicles at company stations typically do a slow, overnight fill. However, it is possible to do a more normal, fast-fuel at spots with public access.
WM favors the trickle feed at a 15-pound rate. “We can do 40 trucks in one shift,” Woods says. There are other advantages, too. For one thing, high-paid drivers are not waiting in line or messing with urea for the diesel while on the clock. The fill-up job falls to others.
The road to CNG is not totally paved with dollar bills, however.
For one thing, CNG-powered engines need to be tuned to the vehicle’s exact operation. Conversely, diesel trucks can have similar engines whether they are roll-offs, front-loaders or standard neighborhood refuse vehicles.
“With CNG you need to gear the rear ends to the application,” Jennings says. For example, residential pickup trucks need quicker power moving stop-to-stop than do roll-off trucks that spend much of their time at 40 or 50 mph.
Mechanics need to be trained to the new type of engine. Most mechanics have decades of diesel experience. CNG power is different. Anticipated engine repair situations are different. It takes time to climb the learning curve.
“We have begun setting up the infrastructure to train area mechanics on CNG and have begun to train police, fire and rescue workers on the specifics of CNG,” Benedetto says.
Woods says drivers and mechanics seem to like the relative simplicity of CNG versus diesel.
“On top of that, diesel technology is getting much more expensive,” he adds.
This has become a payload issue for WM. The company figures it could lose about one ton in payload when cooling packages, urea tanks, catalytic converters and other required equipment is added to the diesel trucks in its fleet. At one point, the company had problems registering vehicles because they were overweight on the front axle.
With CNG-fueled trucks, there is no diesel particulate filter to maintain. There is no manual regen to get the fuel hot enough to burn off the excess soot (while this happens naturally at sustained highway speeds, it is a concern with stop-and-go vehicles).
“The engines in our natural-gas-powered TerraPro Cabover and TerraPro Low Entry models utilize a three-way catalyst to meet EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) 2010 emissions standards,” Dorwart notes.
With that, the CNG-powered models offer similar performance to diesel-powered models in a package that utilizes lower cost, domestic fuel.
Benedetto says companies can install conversion kits on vehicles so they can operate fleets on CNG.
“Cold weather is not a hindrance to CNG-powered models,” Dorwart says.
“Performance has improved compared to early natural gas models.”
Cold-weather operation may be easier with CNG but that can be a mixed blessing. Benedetto says TFC Recycling’s CNG trucks have no problems with cold weather operation.
That said, others caution that drivers need to be aware that quick winter starts with CNG actually can damage an engine, because cold, thick oil will not circulate instantly to all the places in the engine that it is required.
“You still need block heaters,” Woods says. “If it is too cold, diesel just won’t start.” Not so with CNG. It hops to life. Be aware of the possibility of problems with both the main and crankshaft bearings, however, users suggest.
That said, Woods adds that he is sold on CNG. “If you compare a post-2007 diesel with natural gas, natural gas is simpler,” he says.
Some safety concerns exist but they are easily addressed. WM equips all of its trucks and garages with methane detection monitors. Automatic door-openers kick in should levels rise.
Muir says that 80 percent of WM’s fleet purchases for the next five years will be CNG vehicles.
One other concern was vehicle performance. “I was skeptical at first,” Woods says. He found the 9-liter Cummins engine worked well. His company has beta tested a 12.9-liter version but doesn’t seem to need it in most cases.
“For a driver, if the truck won’t get out of its own way, we’re going to hear about it,” Woods says. With 1,500 vehicles on the road, they are well-aware of the trade-offs with CNG for operations, fuel consumption, noise. Woods says he likes what he sees.
“There are so many wonderful things about CNG that make it better for residential collections,” Benedetto says. “First, it’s quieter, cleaner and has no odor. Another benefit with CNG is the absence of diesel spills.”
Jennings notes that he has a college-age son. “We need to continue to grow and make this planet a better place for future generations,” Jennings says. “CNG is one way to start doing that.”
Benedetto concludes, “Living and operating in a community that values its beaches and waterways, this is important to our company, our community and to the generations to follow.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In late 2010, German-based Hammel Recyclingtechnik introduced what it described as the world’s first mobile scrap processing plant at an auto recycling show in Hohenroda, Germany.
The company says the system can process a mixed basic material into a marketable end product. Raw material, including car bodies, engine blocks and aluminum bales, is shredded with the primary shredder, the VB 950 DK, and directly fed into the metal screen, the MMS 150 DK, where it is separated using a vibratory screen, discharging the oversized material. The screened material falls onto an integrated vibration channel, which feeds the material to a drum magnet.
The drum magnet sorts ferrous from nonferrous material. The nonferrous material is transferred via a discharge belt to the eddy current system, where the aluminum and shredded light fraction are separated. The ferrous material is transported to the metal fine shredder, the HEM 1250 DK.
The shredding rotor is equipped with eccentric disc hammers and is hydrodynamic. With the special shredding rotor and its pre-stressed screen basket, Hammel says it is possible to achieve a precise end size material, adding that it was the goal to reach an E40-classification on the European steel-scrap-list.
Ralf Semler, regional manager for Hammel New York, based in Bohemia, N.Y., spoke with Recycling Today about some of the potential advantages recyclers can see from processing scrap metal with a low-speed, high-torque shredder.
Recycling Today (RT): What types of metal scrap can low-speed, high-torque shredders handle, and how do production levels differ from hammer mill shredders?
Ralf Semler (RS): The capabilities of low-speed, high-torque shredders in processing scrap metal vary a lot depending on the manufacturer and shredder model in question. Some machines utilize a cutting or shearing action; others are ripping/tearing the material apart. Not all low-speed, high-torque shredders are capable of processing scrap metal, and some should only be used for very specific and uniform materials, such as sheet metals, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
A Hammel low-speed, high-torque shredder works under the ripping and tearing principle, utilizing two synchronized, counter-rotating, load-sensing and auto-reversing shredding shafts that run at about 35 rpm. This design allows it to process most types of scrap metal where steel is no more than 0.25 to 0.50 inches in thickness. Miscellaneous scrap and appliances/white goods are very popular materials as are iron-y aluminum products, such as transmissions and engine blocks. The same machines are also capable of processing demolition debris, tires, wood and more with little or no changes. The larger Hammel models, like the VB 950DK Red Giant, can process an entire car or pickup truck—engine, transmission and rear-end included.
Production levels are typically between 15 to 40 tons per hour in a scrap metal environment (depending on the shredder and the application). This is less than some hammer-mill type shredders can produce, but operating and maintenance costs are also much less as well. A typical operation should incur maintenance time of about one hour per day, or about one day every other week.
RT: How can low-speed shredders be advantageous relative to such things as less noise, less dust and fewer emissions? Is the permitting process typically easier when deploying a low-speed unit?
RS: The low-speed, high-torque shredder has a big advantage when it comes to noise, dust and emissions. Noise levels emitting from the shredder in a typical operation are no louder than the material handlers and trucks operating in its vicinity. Dust levels depend on the material being shredded and can be further controlled with an optional water-spray dust suppression system. The low-speed shredding action produces a very low amount of dust in the first place compared to any high-speed shredding mill.
Hammel’s line of shredders are available with either a diesel or electric drive and range from 350 to 710 horsepower, with fuel consumption of 5 to 18 gallons per hour.
Permitting regulations vary everywhere, so anyone considering a low-speed, high-torque shredder should check with the local authorities directly just to make sure. Typically, what we have found is that our shredders, most of which are mobile, self-contained machines, do not require any additional permits to be used. The machines do not require any special foundations or concrete pads to be poured and can be moved around the yard or on the road across town and be set up and ready to be used again in less than 30 minutes. One application where this could be utilized is rotating a slow-speed, high-torque shredder from one yard to the next, processing materials in a different location every few weeks or every other month.
RT: Considering the productivity difference, what size of scrap yard or what type of scrap operation can be a good fit for a low-speed shredder? To what extent have scrap yard managers running scrap through a low-speed shredder set up nonferrous sorting equipment? In what ways does it prove to be cost-effective?
RS: A low-speed shredder in its most basic form is a volume reducer. Without any kind of downstream separating equipment, the shredder by itself can be used to efficiently densify bulky materials to maximize weight for shipping/trucking. Clean aluminum rims are a great example of this, as it is virtually impossible to get enough weight into any container when shipping unprocessed rims. Processing material on a remote feeder yard for trucking and further processing at a central location is another great example.
Another application for just the shredder by itself is as a pre-shredder for a small to medium-size hammer-mill shredder, downsizing bulky material to better feed into the hammer mill and delivering a more consistent feedstock, resulting in a more consistent operating load on the shredder.
The next step up from having no separation at all would be the addition of a magnet. Depending on the application, a cross-belt, inline or drum magnet can be used to remove ferrous material from an iron-y aluminum mix or to pick out the ferrous material from other contamination.
At this stage a small picking conveyor can be useful if either the ferrous or nonferrous stream contains materials that should be further separated. A great example of this is picking out and separating the electric motors that get picked up by the magnet along with all the other ferrous steel. These should not end up in the final steel pile and will fetch a much higher price when sold separately.
In an application where white goods are being processed, the addition of an eddy current makes a lot of sense. In Hammel’s product offering we call this our three-machine “Mobile Metal Separation Plant.” We shred the material and size it to a 6-inch-minus product using a vibrating finger screen. A drum magnet separates the ferrous material, and the nonferrous feeds into an eddy current separator to get out the aluminum. With a few hand pickers on the various output belts, this scrap yard now has the ability to take in appliances and white goods, do the processing in house and end up with sellable materials of 6-inch-minus clean steel, aluminum or zorba and the hand-picked items, like electric motors (meatballs), stainless steel, copper, insulated wires, etc.
The owners of these types of machines range from very small yards with a single small shredder all the way to the big steel companies that own multiple machines. There is no clear-cut best customer, but there does seem to be a trend for the mobile metal separation plant to find its home with the medium-size scrap companies that have between one to six locations in an area. This size business can generate enough material to keep the machines fed and can best benefit from the additional market opportunities that are opened when processing material in house.
Ralf Semler is regional manager for Hammel New York, based in Bohemia, N.Y. He can be contacted at email@example.com.