Council Oks Design Contract for WastAway biogas facility solid waste solution

Jan 05, 2023 at 08:32 pm by WGNS News


Above: A four-minute video on the Project Agreement in Murfreesboro. 

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Murfreesboro City Council Thursday (Jan. 5) approved a design contract for a New Qualified Biogas Property following the approved Project Agreement in December with WastAway, LLC for solid waste management.

Mayor Shane McFarland stated, “WastAway’s process provides a beneficial fuel that hits all the sustainability, economical, and environmental goals that benefit our community and enhance the quality of life for citizens in Murfreesboro. The Council and City staff have led the effort to find a long-term, sustainable solution that is right for our community. I hope our work with WastAway can set the standard for a regional solution that others can adopt. We know our partners in Smyrna, Lavergne and Rutherford County can work together for a true sustainable solution.”

“Council asked us to move forward with the Project Agreement and Design Contract to create a framework for financing and designing this solid waste solution,” said Assistant City Manager Darren Gore. “Providing an alternate solution to solid waste management that is sustainable and generates a beneficial fuel such as renewable natural gas allows the City to continue to expand its solid waste services at the lowest cost for future growth. I am confident that the WastAway process works.”

The $870,000 Design and Engineering contract with Griggs and Maloney Engineering and Environmental Consulting, Inc. is part of $2.5 million in design fees for four distinct components of a future solid waste management solution—a qualified biogas property (QBP) to be constructed at 2120 Butler Drive. Design and Engineering is funded by FY22 CIP bond proceeds.

The Murfreesboro City Council Thursday (Dec. 1) approved a proposed project agreement with WastAway, LLC for planning and designing of a biogas facility. The Materials Management Station (MMS), the initial selection of four critical sections of the facility, would be constructed first at Butler Drive to manage the City’s solid waste in anticipation of the closing of Middle Point Landfill. 

  • Material Management Station (MMS) 
  • WastAway SE 3 Manufacturing (SE3M) section 
  • Anaerobic Reactor Biogas Generation (ARBG) section  
  • Renewable National Gas Purification (RNGP) section 

The Design Contract with Griggs and Maloney includes construction drawings and bid specification preparation for engineering design and bidding of the MMS and SE3 pre-engineered steel shell buildings. The scope of work includes specification for such work as site grading, utility improvements, drainage, access road, planning submittals, permit preparation and footing design for the anaerobic digesters.

According to Mark Brown, CEO of WastAway, “Our primary mission is to help end our dependence on landfills. And at WastAway, we can divert 90 percent of the municipal solid waste away from landfills and into beneficial reuse. We do that through our patented WastAway technology which takes Solid Waste, we pull out the recyclable materials, the metals are pulled out, some of the plastics are pulled out and then 70 percent of the end product is our SE3, which is a clean, sustainable fuel that’s been approved by EPA for use in non-waste facilities.” 

At the October 12 City Council Workshop meeting, the Council reviewed and supported moving forward with more study of WastAway, including a draft Project Agreement with WastAway. Assistant City Manager Darren Gore presented a solid waste multi-criteria analysis on alternatives.

The proposed project agreement with WastAway would include the following: 

  • The design phase of the WastAway facility consisting of four components: 
    • a Material Management Station (MMS) 
    • WastAway SE3 Manufacturing (SE3M) 
    • Anaerobic Reactor Biogas Generation (ARBG) 
    • and Renewable Natural Gas Purification (RNGP) 
  • The proposed project agreement establishes an expectation for good faith negotiation the terms for construction and improvements by July 1, 2025. ($67.5 million gross and $59 million net for the City) The difference between gross and net amounts includes a 25.5 percent federal rebate defined in Title 26 USC §48: ENERGY CREDIT Qualified Biogas Property (“QBP”) projects. 
  • The proposed agreement establishes an expectation for good faith negotiation the terms for long-term operation of the project after construction is complete. 
    • Revenues generated by selling renewable natural gas (RNG) and Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits fully support the debt service and operational expenses of the facility. 
    • Any additional revenues would provide for a reasonable management fee and then accrue benefits to the City primarily in the form of reduced tipping or processing fees.

In 2018, consultant Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. (GBB), recommended a material management station on the north and south end of Rutherford County. The proposed MMS component of the proposed project agreement accomplishes that stated goal on the south end of the County.

WastAway presented a Waste-to-Fuel Report update before the City Council Workshop meeting March 9, 2022, on the economic viability of a waste-to-fuel or waste-to-energy project for the City’s municipal solid waste. The SE3 manufactured biomass fuel would be used in boilers for cement kilns and power generation facilities as a coal or wood equivalent.

Since that time, studies have shown that the SE3 can be used as feedstock in an anaerobic reactor to generate biogas which is further refined to renewable natural gas. Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is highly incentivized by federal subsidies due to offsetting the use of fossil fuels. A U.S. Senate bill has been introduced this year as the Renewable Natural Gas Incentive Act of 2022 that would further encourage alternative fuels like WastAway’s SE3 to be used to manufacture RNG. Republic and Blackrock have made public announcements of their intention to invest around $1 billion in projects generating RNG and to be ready for commissioning by 2027.

The City is developing a plan to build a Materials Management Station [South Transfer Station] on twenty-two (22) acres on Butler Drive off Joe B. Jackson Parkway. The City’s residential solid waste could be processed for shipping to a landfill or converted to a marketable energy product by WastAway in an upgraded, mixed waste processing facility at the same location. WastAway’s process diverts 90 percent of solid waste. Seventy (70) percent is converted

to an SE3 biomass fuel (coal/wood equivalent). Ten percent must still be landfilled. Approximately 7 percent of the City’s waste stream is made up of metals that would be recovered and recycled. The remaining moisture is vaporized as part of the WastAway process.

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