Richland's InEnTec melter honored

A Richland company has won the top honors at the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards.

InEnTec's patented technology that converts garbage and hazardous wastes into clean fuels without producing harmful toxins was the winner in the energy category.

Ash from the process is captured in molten glass that can either be buried or used in construction. The technology also allows the separation of metals for recycling.

"It's a great validation of a technology that's leading the way in the green energy sector," said Jeff Surma, one of the founders of the company.

It represents the ultimate in recycling because it actually rearranges the molecular structure of low-value materials and transforms them into high-value products such as alternative transportation fuels, electricity and manufacturing materials.

The company's Plasma Enhanced Melter uses plasma arcs to vaporize organic materials at very high temperatures to produce synthesis gas, or syngas, that can be converted in a variety of products such as ethanol, methanol and clean diesel. The company commercially deploys the technology by building plants to process wastes and to sell the clean fuels.

The company, formerly known as Integrated Environmental Technologies, was started in 1995 by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers who had studied and improved the technology jointly developed by PNNL and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PNNL has continued to provide technology assistance to the company to further develop the process for a specific application, said Gary Spanner, manager of PNNL's economic development office. Last year, the lab helped tweak the process for making ethanol from syngas.

Surma said he appreciates the help the company has received from PNNL. It has aided InEnTec to developthe technology and to get access to researchers, Surma said.

InEnTec's corporate office is in Bend, Ore., but it has about 20 employees working at the company's Technology Center in Richland, said Surma, who lives in the Tri-Cities, and leads one of the company's many subsidiaries, S4 Energy Solution.

It's a joint venture between InEnTec and Waste Management to build, own, and operate PEM facilities that use municipal, industrial and medical waste, he said. It soon plans to build a commercial pilot project in the Pacific Northwest, Surma said.

Another facility to recycle chemical waste is soon to be commissioned in Midland, Mich., at a Dow Corning plant, said Surma. That's part of a joint venture between InEnTec and Lakeside Energy, an energy technology investment company.

More than six PEM facilities around the globe are helping turn trash into clean energy and helping save the environment.

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