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Council approves waste-to-hydrogen pilot program

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com
Due to a tight deadline last week, the COURIER was not able to fully report on the waste-to-hydrogen program. This update includes an overview as well as new information.
As reported in last week’s COURIER, the energy technology company, Ways2H, wants to construct and run a waste-to-hydrogen plant and pilot program at the Claremont City Yard. The facility will include a 35-foot-tall “processing frame” which will occupy an eight-by-20-foot space adjacent to the city’s transfer station. Additional facilities including a control room, utility skid, waste shredder, hydrogen separator and storage space for fuel cells will take up an additional 37 x 70 feet of space. Community Services Director Jeremy Swan said that space is currently used for bin and roll-off storage, which will be moved to another location in the city yard.
Last Tuesday the Claremont City Council unanimously approved the program, agreeing to lease the space to Ways2H for two years at a rate of $1 per year and provide one ton of municipal solid waste per day. That waste will be converted into 50 kilograms of hydrogen fuel which will be sold by the company or could be used to generate electricity. The seven tons of diverted waste per week will save the city $23,700 in sanitation fees over the two-year period.
In addition to the small discount in fees, the program will reduce waste sent to landfills, help in the effort to replace carbon-based fuels and improve air quality, which are goals outlined in the Claremont’s sustainable city plan. The city doesn’t have any vehicles that run on hydrogen, so Claremont currently does not have any use for the fuel produced.
The arrangement could be extended if both parties agree, however, if the city elects to end the program, Ways2H will dismantle the plant and return the yard to its previous condition.

Update on council action
During a presentation to the city council, Ways2H Manager Industrial Solutions Bill Charneski said his company’s employees will sort out organic material from the municipal solid waste to create the feedstock for the energy producing plant. The waste will then be fed into a shredder as the first step of the gasification process. The plant will process one ton of trash per day, but the city only collects waste four days a week, so there will be some storage of the feedstock at the city yard.
The Claremont facility will serve as a demonstration site for the company to show investors and potential new clients how the process works. Ways2H plans to upscale its waste-to-hydrogen plants to eight tons and eventually 24 tons of waste per day.
A 24-ton plant produces 1.2 to 1.5 tons of hydrogen per day, which would be enough energy to power 40 diesel trucks or produce 1.1 megawatts of energy through a fuel cell electric plant. However, these larger facilities will most likely not be built in Claremont.
“I don’t know that we will be building bigger systems in the city yard, I think the bigger systems will be at other locations in Southern California,” Charneski said.
The equipment for the Claremont plant is currently under construction at a factory in India, and Charneski said they plan to have all the permitting completed by April 21 and the plant ready to go online by May 1.
The council had a few questions which mainly focused on the environmental impact of the waste-to-hydrogen production itself.
Charneski responded that the company would have to go through the entire environmental review and permitting process, including CalRecycle and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and obtain a waste water permit.
“We are going to get all of the permits and will not be starting up until we get the permits,” Charneski said. “That is better than my promise that we will do a good job.”
After public comment there were questions about at which point of scale a waste-to-hydrogen plant would be profitable.
Charneski responded that there are revenues beyond the hydrogen or converting it to electricity and he was confident that the 24-ton plants similar to the one the company is building in Martinique would definitely be profitable.
The council was generally very excited about the project, calling it a creative way to handle future energy needs while helping to slow climate change.
“I am actually really excited about this and I am very appreciative to staff who have brought this forward that we have the opportunity to be a part of this, Councilmember Corey Calaycay said. “This is the way we are going to find opportunities to address some of the concerns that our residents have, particularly people connected with Sustainable Claremont with regards to climate change and better ways of doing things.”

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