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Company Seeks Fortune Turning Garbage into Oil

USA: July 22, 2003

PHILADELPHIA - Finally, a possible use for old tires and turkey bones.

A privately held company run by a former candy salesman is working on turning everyday garbage into oil that can be used to heat homes and turned into fuel to power car engines.

Changing World Technologies has built a pilot plant in a Philadelphia Navy Yard warehouse that uses a process called thermal depolymerization to mimic and speed up the natural process for making oil.

The West Hempstead, New York-based company has already turned personal computers, old tires and even turkey bones and feathers into oil, Chief Executive Brian Appel said.

"We are supercharging that process and doing in minutes what the earth would naturally do over hundreds of thousands of years," Appel said.

Changing World Technologies said the advantages of making oil from garbage is that it controls waste while also reducing dependence on foreign oil and slowing global warming.

But not everyone is convinced.

"(The process) sounds like an interesting chemical innovation but unless you can prove who can use the oil and how, its market value is not clear," said Sarah Emerson, managing director of Energy Security Analysis Inc., an independent energy research firm.

Instead of waiting for nature to take its course -- that is for decomposing plants and animals to be mashed, pressured and heated by sliding tectonic plates -- Changing World Technologies uses a shredding and grinding machine.


The machine loudly grinds the waste into a slurry mixture, which is then fed through an intense heating and pressuring process that separates out oil. The oil is then refined.

Proof the process works on a larger scale will come when the company opens its first plant later this year, Appel said.

Changing World Technologies has created a joint venture with ConAgra Foods Inc., the second largest U.S. food maker, to build a plant in Missouri near ConAgra's ButterBall turkey factory.

The plant is designed to process 200 tons of turkey bones and feathers daily into various products including more than 500 barrels of oil, Changing World Technologies said.

But critics question the technology's ability to move from small scale production to a large facility.

"It might work in the lab, but when you put it on a larger scale it becomes a daunting task," said Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Fahnestock & Co. and a former engineer.

"It is uneconomic and it's not feasible," he said.

Predicting critics will be proven wrong, Appel, who was once a sales representative for Russell Stover Candies and worked in business development for Ticketmaster, estimates Changing World Technologies will be able to produce oil at a cost of $15 a barrel.

That's about half the wholesale price for a barrel of oil. In a few years, the cost will drop to $10 -- which is about what Appel said mid-sized exploration and production companies spend -- and then down to $6 to $8 per barrel.

Changing World Technologies said it is not the first to convert organic and other products into oil. But others have failed because the process was too expensive to operate or consumed too much energy.

The government and private industry are betting that the garbage-into-oil process could revolutionize the energy industry. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have given Changing World Technologies $21 million in grants.

The company raised another $50 million from investors including Howard Buffet, the son of Warren Buffet, and James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But Fahnestock's Gheit remains unconvinced. "Having this technology next to a slaughterhouse this is something else, this is a garbage disposal business it has nothing to do with energy."

Story by Francesca Segre











































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