Plastics into fuel process studied

Port of Port Townsend consultant to report on local viability

Eron Berg is the executive director for the Port of Port Townsend.

Eron Berg is the executive director for the Port of Port Townsend.

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s called pyrolysis. And it turns plastic trash into fuel.

“Things are changing. People want to see change,” Pete Langley said at last Wednesday’s Port of Port Townsend Commission meeting, at the start of a discussion of using pyrolysis in Jefferson County.

The port won a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology, and the three commissioners voted unanimously during the meeting to move forward with it. The grant will fund the hiring of a consultant to evaluate how a pyrolysis system can work locally, said Eron Berg, the port’s executive director.

“It will be sized to this county,” he added, to recycle only the plastic materials here, rather than attracting them from other communities.

It was Langley, owner of the Port Townsend Foundry, who originally pitched the pyrolysis idea to the port. For years he’s watched plastic debris accumulate in local waters and on land.

Disposal of plastics — all those tarps, for example — is a worsening issue for the port and the county, Langley said.

“We should turn that fuel into more fuel,” instead of trucking it away to a recycling facility or landfill site, he said.

Pyrolysis is a process that heats waste plastics in an airtight vessel without oxygen. The system liberates gases that condense to a useful hydrocarbon, or oil. The process has been used elsewhere in the world for many years, and the necessary equipment is available from international manufacturers.

Neither the port nor the foundry are looking to build a big refinery here. Instead, they want the consultant to produce a report of how economically feasible it would be for a business or other organization to install and use a pyrolysis facility.

The port got involved because of its mission of economic development, Berg said. A pyrolysis plant could not only reduce waste, it could also generate jobs, he said.

The consultant’s report is due by June 30.

In other action at the port meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to settle litigation by the Hangar C condominium association at the Jefferson County International Airport.

Hangar C had been paying rent on its building plus the taxi-ways around it — some 38,000 square feet of space — and that led to a lawsuit alleging inequity, Berg said.

An arbitration meeting was set and then postponed to allow the parties to discuss a settlement.

Hangar C and the port reached an agreement to have Hangar C pay rent only on its building, which houses airplane garages. The lease is to be renewed at 59 cents per square foot for the 10,375-square-foot structure.

“Everybody walks away with no checks written,” Berg said.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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