Green Mountain Coffee Roasters – known for its Keurig brand of individual coffee cups – may soon be able to turn its waste stream into a source of power for its Vermont operations.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota is working with Wynntryst, LLC, an energy solutions company based in South Burlington, Vermont, to develop a gasification power system for the company.
The project specifically focuses on converting Green Mountain’s coffee residues, plastic packaging, paper, cloth or burlap, and plastic cups into an energy source.
“This project is an extension of work performed by the EERC for NASA, which explored the conversion of waste from a space station and future Martian and lunar bases into heat and power,” says EERC Deputy Associate Director for Research Chris Zygarlicke. “This project will similarly utilize a mostly renewable and bio-based waste and convert it into electricity for the coffee industry.”
“The first step of the project is to demonstrate that we can gasify the complex mixture of waste and produce clean synthetic gas, or syngas, by utilizing the EERC’s novel advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG) system on the biomass–residue mixture,” says Project Manager and Research Scientist, Nikhil Patel.
The syngas will then either be utilized in an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell for efficient production of electricity and heat or be converted to high-value biofuels or chemicals. The pilot-scale tests will evaluate the quality of syngas that can be produced from the Green Mountain waste.
“Over the years, the EERC has developed and tested numerous small gasifier systems like this on a variety of biomass feedstocks,” Zygarlicke said. “The EERC system has already produced power by gasifying forest residues, railroad tie chips, turkey litter, and other biomass feedstocks and burning the produced syngas in an on-site engine generator. The coffee industry residues will be similarly tested.”
The EERC will use the outcome of the pilot-scale efforts to propose a full-scale commercial demonstration system for installation at various Green Mountain sites.
Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications, and a regular contributor to Sustainable Life Media.