KORE Infrastructure (KORE) is a service-based biosolids management solution that supports a diverse portfolio of disposal options available to wastewater agencies. KORE’s innovation is a three-stage thermochemical conversion process that transforms biosolids into valuable byproducts such as diesel fuel, electricity, biochar, and elemental sulfur. KORE has scaled down and re-engineered a historically proven large-scale industrial process to create a small footprint, modular, closed-loop system that is suitable for wastewater sector applications – unlocking the potential of biosolids to create sustainable energy resources.
Stage 1: Material Handling and Drying
The KORE process uses a fully odor-controlled, enclosed solids handling facility to receive biosolids. Biosolids are then conveyed through sealed conveyers into a commercially proven paddle dryer which converts moisture into water suitable for reuse while simultaneously preserving the BTU value of dry biosolids for optimal energy recovery. The material handling equipment is kept under vacuum with offgas odors removed via aqueous scrubbers and carbon filters to remove odors effectively.
Stage 2: Solid to Gas
Dry biosolids then enter the system through a series of airlocks where they are pyrolyzed at high temperature under vacuum conditions to generate an energy-dense pyrogas and biochar. Due to KORE’s compact modular design, the pyrolysis process can be installed, operated, and controlled with great flexibility. The pyrogas, adequate to meet the needs of the entire system, is scrubbed, cooled, and further conditioned to remove all hydrogen sulfide and other contaminants in order to prepare it for conversion to liquids or for heat and power generation.
Stage 3: Gas to Liquids
The pyrogas can be used as a heat source and/or a reactant in the liquefaction system to produce road-spec No. 2 diesel and petrochemicals. KORE utilizes heat generated within the process to catalytically crack methane and heavier hydrocarbons in the pyrogas into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, a mixture known as synthesis gas.
KORE’s proprietary Fischer-Tropsch process catalytically converts the syngas under pressure to liquid hydrocarbons (synthetic crude oil) that can be separated onsite or offsite to produce the desired fuel. All fuel generated by the KORE process is certified as road-spec and is safely transported by tanker trucks.
What are the benefits to implementing your technology?
Under KORE’s performance-based contracting model, KORE commercializes the byproducts of its process to generate revenue that allows KORE to offer competitive biosolids disposal fees to municipal wastewater agencies. KORE’s preferred method of business is design, build, and operate. KORE’s solution is fully financed and operated by KORE with no capital expense or technical risk to the utility customer. In addition to a cost-competitive biosolids management solution, KORE’s technology could have numerous benefits to a wastewater agency:
- KORE’s technology mitigates air quality issues by avoiding emissions through the reduction of truck traffic associated with transporting biosolids to landfills and land application sites. Processing biosolids through a co-located or nearby offsite KORE facility can reduce the number of vehicle-miles typically traveled for biosolids disposal. Greenhouse gas emissions are further reduced by diverting biosolids from landfills.
- Product outputs from the KORE process could create value for the wastewater agency such as a low-cost, long-term source of vehicle fuel. The KORE process generates a high-quality, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel that has been approved by the State of California for highway use. Wastewater agencies can significantly reduce vehicle fleet emissions through the use of KORE’s ultra-low sulfur transportation fuel.
- The KORE process also generates a granular biochar as its only solid byproduct, expected to be less than 10% of the volume of wet cake biosolids. This biochar has properties comparable to activated carbon that can be of potential benefit as a low-cost removal solution for contaminants in liquid and vapor streams found in wastewater treatment plants.
- A co-located KORE facility would enable KORE’s produced gas to be added to digester gas to produce more onsite electricity. Alternatively, digester gas could be used in the KORE process to produce more liquid fuels.
Has the technology been tested, demonstrated, or implemented to date?
KORE’s pilot facility was designed, built, and operated by KORE at the Los Angeles County Sanitation District’s (LACSD) Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP) in Carson, California. KORE’s pilot facility operated for over five years and was the primary testing ground for designing, integrating, and optimizing the pyrolysis system and liquefaction stages of KORE’s thermochemical process. The culmination of this R&D was a long-term performance-based contract with the LACSD to manage a portion of JWPCP’s biosolids. Data derived from the pilot facility represents significant intellectual property that KORE has accumulated through thousands of hours of field testing, and gives KORE the confidence to offer a fully funded, reliable, performance-based biosolids management solution to the wastewater industry. This pilot plant serves as the empirical data basis of the commercial design for KORE’s first full-scale commercial facility which is set to begin operation in California in Q1 2016.
What are the next steps needed to advance your technology?
Once commercial proof of concept is established, KORE’s compact, modular technology will be more often applied on a co-located basis providing numerous advantages to the wastewater agency. During KORE’s extensive research over the last five years, KORE has identified multiple opportunities for optimization that, when integrated into a co-located system, will allow municipal wastewater treatment facilities to greatly enhance energy and cost-efficiency. For example, KORE is developing ways to use waste heat with even greater energy efficiency to dry biosolids while also using an advanced integrated heat recovery approach to produce energy well in excess of the energy demand of the system. KORE is also exploring how to integrate biochar into the treatment plant operation to reduce the energy required for the activated sludge process. Future optimizations will also allow KORE’s process to economically produce gas for beneficial reuse directly from primary and waste-activated sludge, with quantities and quality comparable to biogas, but without the space, O&M requirements and offsite sludge disposal volumes associated with anaerobic digestion.
KORE’s biosolids experience to date is limited to Southern California municipal wastewater treatment plants that anaerobically digest primary and waste activated sludge and dewater the waste digester solids to greater than 25% with a centrifuge. In the short-term, next steps would involve developing process performance data with biosolids generated in other plants and regions of the country and with different upstream process conditions and wet cake biosolids characteristics to expand the base of experience necessary to advance the technology.
LIFT has already served as a useful platform where KORE has learned about industry trends and opportunities for collaboration with utilities. The ideal assistance that LIFT could provide would be the identification of a wide variety of LIFT participants interested in further evaluating the KORE solution by processing their particular biosolids. KORE proposes a short-term test protocol as a cost-effective means for developing “first look” pilot test data that LIFT participants individually and collectively can use as a basis for determining whether to further consider the KORE solution. By testing biosolids generated under a variety of local circumstances, KORE will develop a test data and results matrix that is relevant to the broadest possible range of LIFT participants.Leslie GildeaSpecial Projects Manager / Business Development ManagerKore Infrastructure