Interview | Roger Preston, CEO Tresoil Biofuels: Plastic waste disposal and H2 production, a way to kill two birds with one stone

Mihai Cristea 03/08/2021 | 16:51

Roger Preston, CEO Tresoil Biofuels, is an Australian living for the past 11 years in Bucharest, Romania, working on a sustainable and green hydrogen project using the Danube River as an EU strategic transport corridor by inland river barges from the Black Sea to the North Sea Hydrogen Markets. Business Review sat down with him to talk about what he calls “a way to kill two birds with one stone: plastic waste disposal and H2 production. Predictable, on-demand Hydrogen-based power storage, truly renewable, carbon-negative hydrogen fuel used as energy vector emits zero polluting emissions.”

 

  1. You have been involved in renewable energy and sustainable and green hydrogen projects for the past 15 years, a period in which these sectors have experienced important developments. What is your take on these developments and where are we headed?

Hydrogen in Europe is enjoying unprecedented momentum for the past 5 years, and is set to underpin EU’s energy transition from fossil fuel by 2050 to support the global effort to implement in the Paris Agreement of the European Commission (EC), and the EU Hydrogen Strategy, released in July 2020. With Romania having the potential to be one of the leaders of economic growth in Europe, the local business environment continues to attract foreign investments and could be a main producer of sustainable energy.

I first came to Romania in 2005 on holiday to visit the Danube Delta and stayed in Chilia Veche in local lodging to explore The Danube Delta’s many ## vast attractions.

Within 10 years, it is my intention to develop a network of up to 50 waste-to-energy / small scale hydrogen plants decentralized power plants (Plastic Parks) strategically positioned on each side of the Danube River from the Black Sea to Germany, and further explore the potential for new Sustainable W2H2 DMG hydrogen technology.

My Mission: to make Romania a powerhouse for hydrogen energy to mitigate mobile transport air pollution, and to eradicate unrecyclable toxic plastics waste being sent landfills.

And Vision: “Produce an emission free transport fuel, stop sending waste to landfill; turn waste into revenue”

 

  1. How did you identify the potential of the Danube Corridor and especially Romania and Bulgaria for becoming an integral part of Europe’s hydrogen economy?

Using the Danube River is a smart greener transport corridor that allows, low-carbon River transportation From the Black Sea to the North Sea taking a substantial number of motorway heavy trucks from congested European highways.

Developing and enhancing research and innovation capacities and the uptake of advanced zero air pollution technologies is all part of the EU Tent initiative, The “EU Green Deal” and EU Danube Region Strategy, and developing skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship.

Tresoil is promoting renewable energy and low carbon transportation of plastic waste and generating revenue from a zero-emission mobility fuel by using the Danube River as a transport vector. Also helping climate change adaptation, disaster risk prevention, resilience, taking into account and promoting access to water and sustainable water management. Enhancing biodiversity, green infrastructure in the environment, and reducing air pollution by transporting a zero-emission hydrogen fuel to North Western European hydrogen markets.

 

  1. You founded Tresoil Biofuels 10 years ago, in 2011, tell us more about your vision back then and walk us through the company’s story so far.

I first came to Romania in 2005 on holiday to visit the Danube Delta and stayed in Chilia Veche in local lodging to explore its many vast wild attractions of the Delta.

My companies Tresoil Biofuels SRL and GeoConstruct Service SRL initial business model in Romania was to identify biomass and waste management projects and renewable energy opportunities including geothermal, biogas and wind, then work with UK partners and investors who can offer the relevant operational, technical and financial expertise.

I became involved with the production of electricity in 2011 from waste by gasification Initially to work with a focus on renewable energy from biomass and agricultural waste. Appointed CEO of Eco2 Renewables SRL and Eco2 Biomasa SRL, the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) for two major biomass Eco2 projects.

TRESOIL by the year 2015 understood the potential to transition by producing sustainable hydrogen from the enormous quantities of unrecyclable plastic available in Romania and South East Europe. European waste operators had suddenly comprehended that they have a huge problem by China’s decision to ban all import of waste plastics from Europe and all countries. Europe used to ship 60% of its plastics for recycling to China each year, they along with other countries (Turkey, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India) have now banned importing all waste plastic in 2020, this will further exacerbate the already severe problem of un-recyclable plastic waste in Europe. China’s ban on accepting the world’s used plastic has plunged global recycling into turmoil. For many years, China received the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world. At the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste imports, as well as many other countries, to protect the local environment and its air quality, leaving nations struggling to find places to send their waste. Most EU dumps are full to the brim and cannot cope with enormous quantities of plastics, old tires and other toxic waste they have to cope with. European customers wish to acquire Sustainable environmental credentials, and to stop pollution receiving penalties.

TRESOIL hydrogen and electricity Clients are: B2B & B2G, private Industry businesses, municipalities required by European legislature to mitigate Air and ground pollution. Potential customers and beneficiaries of Europe’s new Waste to Energy Market Size is Set to touch $43.96 billion by 2024 according to report in 2018 by Grand View Research.

 

  1. What are your plans for the next 10 years?

The Tresoil Business Plan is intended to outline the objectives of this plan which are as follows:

Build a 40 tonnes per day lighthouse Waste To Hydrogen (W2H2) Distributed Modular Gasification (DMG) Power Plant on 1 hectare of land near a Danube River Port Land to trigger further sales of similar scalable replicable Plastic Parks from the Black Sea to the North Sea. Based on the successful outcome of the project. TRESOIL will replicate further W2H2 facilities to the many Danube River ports along both sides of the Danube River from East To West.

Tresoil ambition is the many replication and scalability of W2H2 DMG Energy plants (Plastic Parks). Future expenditure of up to 50…. 40 tonnes of plastic waste per day units on both sides of the Danube River (2,850 km long), which is connected to the Northern European canal system.

 

  1. Can you walk us through the entire process chain of your business model?

The Danube TENT-T Corridor. Tresoil to connect the Danube value chain to the River Rhine Canal system to North West Europe, from the Black Sea canal and the Sea port of Constanta, to have the networks of Plastic Parks across Europe linked  to maritime ports, which is an extremely good fit to the Zero Carbon footprint philosophy for Europe.

The TRESOIL Plastic Waste to Energy Plants will produce sustainable hydrogen (H2) utilizing the W2H2 DMG technology. This is done by collecting unrecyclable plastic in large bales from nearby cities and towns. The W2H2 DMG production of H2 from non-recyclable* plastic waste on a large scale in South-East Europe will fuel the Danube new innovative hydrogen propulsion Tug Push Boats/Barges and export this H2 fuel to customers up and down the Danube. There are dozens of inland ports with available land along and both sides of the Danube Corridor in Romania and Bulgaria that accommodate replicable, scalable “Plastic Parks”.

* all plastic cannot be recycled, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be reprocessed W2H2 DMG technology into non-polluting Fuel.

How the W2H2 DMG Unrecyclable Plastic to Energy Process works.

Step 1 -Material with high calorific values such as tires, plastics, bio-mass, municipal solid waste, hospital and hazardous waste, is shredded and then separated into recyclable materials and feedstock for W2H2 DMG

Step 2 -feedstock is passed through vacuum controlled feed bin system to remove any air (oxygen starved).

Step 3 -air-free feedstock moves through the rotating ultra-high temperature gasification chamber at atmospheric pressure in a non-combustive environment. The reactor, operating at above 1,200°C, breaks-down the feedstock within seconds, converting it into synthesis gas (syngas) which can be as much as 70% hydrogen.

Step 4 -The syngas passes out of the reactor and any remaining solids, which is benign (basalt like sand), is removed and sold to the construction and ground covering industry. It is a closed loop system (no chimney/smokestack)

Step 5 -The syngas is then “scrubbed” twice by a shower of caustic liquid. This effectively washes the gas of any impurities including harmful emissions such as NOx, SOx, toxic ash, tars, dioxin or furans.

Step 6 -The syngas can then be used to and separated with a little off-the-shelf technology into pure hydrogen, with the remaining carbon monoxide (a fuel) used to power the W2H2 DMG reactor continuously.

Step 7 -The hydrogen produced from W2H2 DMG can supply from a single pump to all back to base vehicles, such as buses, trams, service trucks and fleet cars /taxis fueled within less than 8 minutes with a range of 500 Plus kilometres

Danube river barges will collect unrecyclable plastic (large bales) and worn tires from all Romanian and Bulgarian river ports, and transport these to several decentralised Plastic parks to a location of W2H2 DMG hydrogen processing units alongside Danube ports. Producing hydrogen from Romania and Bulgaria for onward H2 transport to EU Northern markets. Hydrogen refueling will be available at each inland waterway port.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaKKfP6Rt5c#action=share

TRESOIL’s aim is to develop a game-changing unique business models and sustainable hydrogen technologies: Build the first of several W2H2 DMG H2 Energy Plants in the inland ports of Romania and Bulgaria.

 

  1. What are the main benefits and objectives of the “Waste to Energy Plastic Parks” you plan to build in Romania and Bulgaria?

The technology that Tresoil will utilise is a proprietary process technology – DMG® – which can utilise waste plastic, end-of-life-tyres, and other waste streams to efficiently and economically convert them into syngas from which valuable products such as chemical precursors, hydrogen, electricity and other industrial products may be derived. The technology is one of the world’s first proven, distributed, modular, hydrogen from waste (HfW) process.

The Tresoil process can generate up to 2 tonnes of road-fuel quality hydrogen and more than 81MWh of exportable electricity per day.  The process produces low levels of safe residues and requires a small operating footprint, making it suitable for deployment at enterprise and community level.

Problem

Plastic is often demonized and a complex challenge, but we have seen how essential it is in industries like healthcare during the pandemic. We do need to recycle as much of this plastic as possible and also get as much value and efficacy from unrecyclable, end-of-life plastic in a cost-effective manner. This W2H2 facility value chain will convert plastic into hydrogen a clean fuel that produces no emissions at the point of use, helping to improve local air quality. According to a report by consultants McKinsey & Company, of the 260 million tonnes of plastic worldwide that we throw away on a yearly basis, less than 10 % gets recycled, while the vast majority gets incinerated, thrown into landfill, or ends up in the most unlikely corners of the planet, on the seabed. An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste enter our oceans via rivers every year. The billions of face masks, hasmat suits and latex gloves used during the corona virus pandemic accentuate the problem. Most of the plastics in the oceans come from waste thrown on the ground or washed into rivers.

Solution

The TRESOIL Plastic Waste to Effective Energy Plants will produce sustainable hydrogen (H2) and electricity utilizing the W2H2 Distributed Modular Generation (DMG) – it is advanced thermal conversion technology, which we employ to produce electrical power and hydrogen from waste plastics. TRESOIL’s vision promise is to propel the Europe’s burgeoning hydrogen economy whilst purging the EU of the scourge of non-recyclable waste plastic, end of life tires and toxic waste from the Cities and producing Clean Hydrogen along the Danube Corridor. Environmentally friendly hydrogen is billed as the ideal alternative to fossil fuels. By co-locating a refueling station, we can help to support the rollout of hydrogen inland river vehicles value chain which will be an important part of our journey to net zero air pollution.

Business model

TRESOIL is to adopt a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, partnering with third parties that will provide capital to fund further system units construction. Revenue streams from sales of hydrogen and electricity. The Plastic Parks model is both scalable and replicable at community and enterprise level along the multiple EU rivers

Market

The Market for electricity and Hydrogen production Is B2B and B2G. Our Beachhead market will be sales of electricity to the Romanian national electricity grid as Renewable Energy and within the following few years develop the market for sustainable hydrogen.

In a nutshell:

The Waste 2 Hydrogen (W2H2) power plant Will:

  • Produce sustainable cost-effective hydrogen and electricity on a large scale in South-East Europe
  • Transport hydrogen via the River Danube to hydrogen users in countries of the Interreg Danube Transnational region and Northern Europe Hydrogen markets
  • Construct and install appropriately sized New Plastic Plants at strategic Ports along the Danube River.
  • Install H2 Refueling Stations along the Danube river port to refuel hydrogen mobility river transport
  • Install processing Facilities for the Transport, Storage and infrastructure of hydrogen
  • Use the Danube and EU waterway for cost-efficient and sustainable transport of hydrogen in the Danube region
  • Bring sustainable hydrogen to early movers in the industry and mobility sectors and roll out the hydrogen economy along TEN-T core river corridors.
  • Produce Hydrogen to strengthen and decarbonise both traditional and new industry sectors in Europe

 

The first 40 tonnes per day W2H2 DMG Power Plant will be built near a Danube River port, Romania producing H2 Energy from contaminated Waste Plastics. If the W2H2 DMG syngas is produced from renewable sources electricity and/or hydrogen is effectively Sustainable; the only carbon emissions are from those embodied in the generation infrastructure.

TRESOIL Strategic partner Morson Engineering will provide underground and overground storage for Hydrogen, whilst also providing solutions for floating storage, Hydrogen Production, Storage and downstream distribution and logistics to serve all aspect of the Hydrogen Industry – Production, Storage & Transport, Hydrogen Carriers, Fuel Tanks, Carbon Reduction, H2 Powered Ship construction and Maritime Industries.

Tresoil Future is in green hydrogen and as a carrier of hydrogen by barge transport to North West and Central European hydrogen markets from South East Europe and will be :

To replicate multiple times the TRESOIL W2H2 DMG Waste to Hydrogen power plants technology units business model along both sides of the Danube river at ports. TRESOIL exit strategy it intends to adopt is a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, partnering with third party’s capital to fund the system expansion along the Danube and other locations in Europe.

Within 10 years, it is our intention to develop a network of up to 50 waste-to-energy / hydrogen plants small scale decentralized power plants strategically positioned on each side of the Danube River from Germany to the Black Sea, and further explore the potential for new Sustainable W2H2 DMG hydrogen technology.

  1. Year 1, Danube port site for first W2H DMG plant ( Tulcea, Giurgiu or Oltenita); supply electricity and heat to local grid customers; Municipalities contract waste operator’s companies for plastic waste feedstock.
  2. Year 2-3, to also produce hydrogen (H2) from waste (Cost extra €5m) (import from Constansta or other upstream countries) for H2 customers in North West Europe and create further revenue. The W2H2 DMG process can generate up to 2 tonnes of road-fuel quality hydrogen and more than 81MWh of exportable electricity per day.
  3. Year 3-4, R & D with strategic partners building H2 propulsion river barge carrier with autonomous software development (Blue Danube Project). River hydrogen and waste transport is an alternative to road transport which makes commercial and environmental sense.
  4. Year 4-5, produce H2 from Electrolysers as the market for hydrogen expands in Europe; TRESOIL will introduce Green Hydrogen from Electrolysers to benefit from its location site close to the water resource of the Danube and the abundant intermittent renewable solar/wind farms producing cheap unused electricity from Romania and Bulgaria.
  5. Year 5 to 10 years, start a Hydrogen Carrier company that will transport compressed liquid Green hydrogen from other Romanian and Bulgarian H2 production actors to ship with hydrogen propulsion barges along the Danube River Corridor to North West European hydrogen markets. Both Romania and Bulgaria are blessed with substantial renewable wind and solar green electricity production that at present is wasted. Using electrolysers with excess electricity when demand is not required

*i.e. onshore/offshore wind and solar would be used to produce green hydrogen at low costs.

Funding and Grants subsidies available for this type of project

Tresoil intention is to work with local partners and be involved in exploring the various available grant for such projects such Modernization Fund covers as much as 100% of priority projects. According to the EU, submissions can be made on a rolling basis, but the investment committee will meet twice a year. EIB confirms if the investment is a priority investment as defined by the ETS Directive.

The Modernization Fund, Recovery and Transition grants was created to support efforts to reach climate neutrality and help workers in carbon-dependent regions to upgrade skills as coal mines and thermal power plants close. The facility is part of the European Green Deal alongside the Just Transition Fund.

The energy efficiency category, therefore, excludes fossil fuels, while district heating pipelines, electricity transmission and interconnections are in the networks item.

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