Shares in Powerhouse Energy (LON:PHE) have enjoyed a great start to 2017. But even after a 170% rise in the share price the company is still valued at a micro £8mln.
Does that fully value the potential of the company’s green technology? Well, only time will tell.
Its G3-UHt system transforms rubbish into electricity with no toxic by-products and effectively zero greenhouse gases.
The latest update, towards the end of last month, revealed the demonstration unit had been shipped from Australia and is bound for these shores with the company in discussions with a number of commercial partners.
When Proactive Investors last spoke to PowerHouse chief Keith Allaun two years ago the company had just completed the development of the EU-certified Pyromex system.
It had demonstrated the production of a synthesis gas that could be fed straight into the mains gas system, or used to create electricity.
However, it wasn’t as resilient as had been hoped and expected.
This meant a back to the drawing board approach to create a system that could withstand the chemical punishment meted out within the reactor that operates at a temperature up to 1,350 degrees Celsius.
What PowerHouse came up with was the G3, an ultra-high temperature gasification system that has taken the technology on several leaps and bounds.
This is not a modification of the old kit, but a ground up re-imaging and re-engineering, of how the system should work in an industrial setting.
“It needed to be able to handle caustic harsh, difficult waste streams; but needed to do so rapidly and economically,” explains Allaun.
“It is easiest to describe the reactor as effectively a rotary kiln that operates in an oxygen free environment and at its most basic level that is true.
“But this ignores the application of the specific heating processes, the construction of a robust reactor tube and an enclosure that have significantly increased both the thermal and electrical efficiency.
“With the advanced material at the reactor core we are now able to handle material such as tyres that contain high levels of sulphur and chlorine.”
The G3 unit, which has been modelled up to 50 tonnes of waste a day, per module, completed rigorous tests in Brisbane, Australia, before being shipped for commercial demonstration here in dear old Blighty.
So what does it actually do? At the heart of the system is a reactor that works oxygen-free at ultra-high temperatures to atomise virtually all household or industrial waste.
What’s created is a synthesis gas, or syngas for short, that can be used to generate electricity. With a little more processing hydrogen can be produced which could then be used to replenish fuel cells. The by-product of all this is an inert substance that can be moulded into bricks or used as ground covering.
Don’t confuse this sophisticated recycling system with incineration, which works at far lower temperatures and leaves behind all sorts of toxins - not to mention significant amounts of ash.
The G3 system’s de-molecularisation capabilities allow for complete detoxification of waste-streams.
There are all manner of applications for a technology that is able to recover up to 90% of the energy value of a material put through the reactor.
Medical waste is one area where the G3 could make a difference, while there is a burgeoning market in carpets too, apparently.
Around 405,000 tonnes of floor covering is discarded each year in the UK alone with only around a third of it recycled (it is often burned in brick kilns). The remainder ends up in landfill sites.
“Automobile recyclers offer another tremendous opportunity,” explains Allaun
“There are over 1,300 auto recyclers in the UK and every one sends at least 5% of its residue (mainly synthetic rubber, dashboards, seats, and other non-recyclables) to the tip. That’s tens-of-thousands of tonnes per annum.”
And here’s where the numbers add up. The landfill tax is currently £85 per tonne, with the gate fee taking that figure to around £100-plus per tonne for standard waste. It can cost anywhere between £300 and £800 a tonne to send hazardous waste to the tip.
So, it might make sense for the PowerHouse to work with skip operators or specialist recycling companies on revenue sharing basis. The companies cut their costs, while both businesses make a turn on power generated in the process and fed into the grid.
The G3 is modular with commercial units expected to devour 50 tonnes of waste per day, which means an operation can be built over time with new units added as capacity grows.
Allaun reckons the payback on a unit might be as little as three years, and here in the UK the electricity would be eligible for the same incentives received by solar and wind power generators.
Financing the roll-out shouldn’t be difficult once the model has been proven, said the PowerHouse chief executive.
“People have already raised their hands to say they are happy to participate in this kind of operation because the economics are so favourable,” said Allaun.
In the meantime it has the financial wherewithal to ship and set up its current working prototype.
“We are confident we can get the first system up and running without any significant additional infusion of added cash,” said Allaun.
“The reality is we have the system already. The capital expense is taken care of. We are just looking at transportation expenditure to put it onsite and start running.
“We are doing this initially in Australia for a few weeks before shipping it to the UK for operation.”