Getting the Most Out of Our Waste with Synergy International, Inc.’s Reinhold Ziegler
March 10, 2014
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. We’re so honored to have with us today Reinhold Ziegler. He’s the CEO and founder of Synergy International. Welcome to Green is Good, Reinhold. REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Welcome. Hello. Good day. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Listen, before we get talking about your great company, Synergy International and everything you’re doing there, Reinhold, talk a little bit about your story, your journey, and how you even got there and what led up to you founding it and running this great organization. REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Okay well, it’s been quite a journey. We all started out as college students. I was very fascinated by science and I was sort of a science major. We went through a lot of experiences here, of course, with everything leading up to the Vietnam War and then on into the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s I became a participant with some groups of people, engineers, scientists in Berkeley, California, and we did a lot of experimentation and through that experimentation, we set up one of the first wind machine companies in the U.S., in the world so we started doing wind energy systems and within years, we were active as wind farm developers and ended up doing some of the first wind farms in the world and that gave me the picture that wow, this is a serious enterprise. Renewable energy is here. It’s at its nexus right now and so we learned that if we covered those lands with wind turbines, we saw that there were other applications that could happen to the land so the land could speak to us and you meet all the other experts and the botanists and the permaculturists and what came together I think, for me, was a need to put together a company that could bring together all of these different disciplines, all these different skills that people have go into almost a kind of synergy, there’s that word, see, or a way to create almost like a symphony with various experts who are all looking at the same problem from their perspective. It kind of drew me to I’m sort of the ringleader. I’m sort of the quarterback of this company but that’s what we do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, for our listeners out there that want to learn more about your great work, they can go to www.synergyii.com. Today, we’re going to talk about just part of the great work that you’re doing. We’re going to talk about remediation parks on land and at sea with bioshelters. Can you start explaining what this means? What is a remediation park? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Sure. A remediation park is an eco-industrial park. It can be a portion of a city or it can be on the edge of a city and usually we don’t know what to do with our waste. We produce a tremendous amount of waste every year and so what we do is we sort of transport that to a little area called a landfill and then over time, we kind of bury that landfill and move on to the next one and so we talk to mayors in the world today. Their biggest headache is garbage and waste treatment so we decided to take this on so as you look at the waste stream, you can separate things out. You can separate the glass, metals, and those have tremendous revenues once they’re collected again and then the second area is to transform the actual resource, which is garbage, into other things like we can gasify it. We can make a gas out of it so we can run it through engines, which makes electricity. We can pressurize that thin gas, that synthetic gas and then under 400 atmospheres of pressure, it becomes liquid again and that liquid, there are liquid fuels that are everything from gasoline to jet fuels, you name it, biodiesel, so it’s a process where we can recycle and reclaim all these nutrients that we call waste. JOHN SHEGERIAN: With regards to your organization, Synergy International, and the sub organizations contained therein, how are your organizations working with your remediation technologies to take waste and create new things out of them? How is that nexus and evolution going? REINGOLD ZIEGLER: It’s going very well. It’s sort of a three part situation structure. Leading in the charge is the International Academy of Natural Sciences, which is a 501 C 3 not-for-profit research and development organization out of Arizona and so that entity compiles all the sciences, all the different knowledge that we have about what are the chemical processes required for transforming things so that’s our hub and the additional surrounding them are consultants and other companies who provide services to then build the various facilities so really what we’re talking about here as far as the remediation park, the core of it is then a waste treatment facility. We are taking the waste and reprocessing it, sequestering certain things out of the waste stream and so on and then the larger picture is that area then is surrounded by various enterprises like an incubator or two or a company that is working with plastics so they are taking the plastics that we have pulled out of the waste streams and have made and make new products out of it and so that leads to job creation and it leads to business development and tied to that then is the biological resources so first of all, you can have an energy farm from that remediation park. That’s the idea. It can also have a wind farm. You can also have solar farms and you can have regular farms that take advantage of the biological content that we have. It’s a symphony. It’s hard to describe in a few words but that’s the core of it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Are you doing this specifically in California or is this happening in other parts of the country? REINGOLD ZIEGLER: Our key project, our private project has been the Phoenix Remediation Park, which is under construction in Phoenix, Arizona, and we have been asked by other locations. We just did a massive design in the Philippines to do the waste treating of Manila and about 10 different cities there so it’s something that is extremely relevant and hasn’t been talked about very much. We have got to find a way to recycle more. There is no such thing as waste. Waste is a misallocated resource so we have to start thinking in terms of recovery as well as throwing things away. There is no away. It doesn’t go away. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When does your Phoenix industrial park open? REINGOLD ZIEGLER: It’ll be a couple more years before we’re ready there but so far, what we have done is just to assemble the various gasifiers. We now have margins of gasifiers that are in 40 foot containers so they’re very shippable and what they can do is 500 kilograms of this waste that we’re talking about produces 500 kilowatts of energy so not bad, you know? JOHN SHEGERIAN: How does gasification really work? Can you explain to our listeners what’s the process of gasification? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Okay, that’s a really good question. Basically, when we tell people that you’re burning something, they have this image in their mind of somebody burning it and it’s in the open air or it’s in a factory and there are smoke stacks and all the smoke comes out from what’s being burned and this is a different process because we’re burning in an enclosed chamber so there’s absolutely no emissions into the atmosphere and so what we’re doing is we’re heating up through other means whatever we’re trying to burn so let’s say we’re trying to gasify wood, for example. We heat up the wood and as we’re heating it up, it begins to get so hot that it catches on fire, uses up the gas, uses up the oxygen within the enclosure, and then it goes out and then what’s left is this gas and the gas basically is methane. It’s carbon monoxide. It’s hydrogen, things like that and so that’s what we’re doing. We’re using pyrolysis, or what’s called in chemistry destructive distillation, to heat up the biomass or whatever we’re trying to gasify and what we are then left with is a gas that is flammable and it can then run through an engine. It can run through turbines or it can be compressed and, using the Fischer-Tropsch Process, we can compress that thin gas and make liquid fuels out of it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So it’s, in essence, a very clean process? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: It is very clean. Again, the focus is there’s no environmental emissions at all so that’s the beauty of it. You can have one of these things operating in your neighborhood and there’s no smoke stack. You wouldn’t even know it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Is this on of the areas where energy is going, gasification? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Very definitely. This is the preferred way of doing it. This system was developed in World War Two. After the Germans couldn’t get oil from the Pelosi Fields near Romania, they couldn’t get anymore petroleum, so then they began to look at a process where they could heat up coal and drive the gas off coal and make gasoline from coal and so this has been adapted now to more commercial uses of it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’re honored to have today with us Reinhold Ziegler and Reinhold’s the CEO and founder of Synergy International and to learn more about his great work, you can look it up at synergyii.com. Talk a little bit about a couple of the great benefits of having a remediation park or a waste to energy plant in your community or in your states. Just give us two or three great benefits please, Reinhold. REINHOLD ZIEGLER: The benefit is that either you’re using waste as a resource and you’re getting the maximum use out of it. It’s also a way to sequester some of the toxins that accumulate in the environment. There’s basically two large cycles that we are working with and one of them is the organic cycle so you can put organics back into the ecosystem and there’s a cycle for them where they will recycle into the organic matrix of our living world, our biosphere. The other one is the industrial cycle so there are certain man made objects and things, processes that do not fit into the ecosystem. There’s no place for dioxins. There’s no place for PVC. It’s just not part of the ecosystem so we have to find new ways of integrating those materials back into the industrial cycle so that’s what this really fulfills in a sense. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How does a waste to energy plant perform? Is it high performance? Is it a slow process? I don’t know much. Our listeners would love to hear from you what kind of performance can we expect? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Tremendous output. Like I said, I’ll give you the analogy with our container gasifiers. This is a 40-foot container that you could drop off in a neighborhood and what we have been interested in is trying to find a way for people to get involved in this process so in our plans, we are basically paying for people to deliver garbage but bring in source separated materials to us and then that has been sent through the gasifier. The gasifier then makes sure it’s dry. By dry, I mean it has to be about 10 to 20% moisture content and then it’s fed into the system and so it’s producing electricity, lots of electricity and the final residue of the output is charcoal or char and there’s a whole other story that we can get into on biochar, where we have now found that if we put the return carbon back into the earth, it improves the performance of the soil so much more so rather than letting the carbon go up into the atmosphere, where it’s collecting to create a greenhouse effect, we are filtering that carbon and we are sequestering that carbon and then putting it back into the earth, which is where it should go and we’ve been rewarded for that too by the sequestration funds that are available for that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How much does one of these systems cost? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: It can be as little as say two-and-a-half million dollars for a basic gasifier system that can be installed in the community. I’ll give you the numbers again so it’s like 500 kilograms or 1,200 pounds of waste produces 500 kilowatts of energy so that’s enough to feed several neighborhoods on power and it comes from one 40-foot container and basically, it’s consuming 1,200 pounds an hour and if you keep feeding it that, it will produce 500 megawatts of energy in an hour. If it’s on for 24 hours, it’s astronomical how much power this thing produces and the residue then is charcoal, biodegraded charcoal or biochar, things like that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Once your Phoenix place is up, do you believe it will be used as a paradigm that then many other states and cities will follow, look to and then follow? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Yes. There are already lots of gasifiers in operation. We could show you one in Phoenix right now that is basically a back up power system for a server farm, a computer server farm and it’s very attractive in how it’s been laid out. There’s no smoke stacks. There’s no waste around it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: The people in the Philippines, Manila and the other cities that contacted you, do they want this system or do they want some other form of waste energy technology that Synergy is involved with? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: It’s a situation that’s actually tragic. If you took a drive around, we are choking in our own waste as a civilization. Take a look at what’s happened to the oceans, you know, so there’s a tremendous amount of waste. Unfortunately in these developing countries, that waste has been put down close to the water and so we’re looking at that and we’re saying, ‘Oh my God, the waste is at sea level so we have got to get rid of this debris, which is down by the water.’ Then we have these landfills where there are methane pockets that are inside. The organics then decompose into methane gas and so you could have a methane explosion. That happens quite a bit so what we’re trying to do is to just deal with this tremendous amount of waste once and for all. In Manila, it’s like 8,500 tons per day of waste so they have to put it somewhere and this is something that is a really important aspect of our civilization and I think most of us, if we’re careful, we could also do very well, which leads to a lot of jobs. It leads to a lot of skills that are transferrable all over the world. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Reinhold, we’re down to the last 40 seconds or so. Do you have any last thoughts for our listeners as we have to sign off now? Is there any last final thoughts you’d like to make? REINHOLD ZIEGLER: I’m delighted by your program and I think we should celebrate more solutions. The world could look like a terrible place. There’s all kinds of bad news every day but I think what we really have to focus on is how can we solve this? There’s got to be a way that we can solve some of these problems and make that our priority to not put it off any longer and deal with these recurring problems of waste, energy, food. I haven’t even talked about our food solutions. There’s a tremendous story, almost another interview, John, so we have lots of good news so let’s focus on that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Perfect, and I appreciate you and I appreciate all your great work. For our listeners out there that want to contact Reinhold or see more of his great work at Synergy International, please go to www.synergyii.com. Reinhold, thank you for all your important work with your remediation technologies and Synergy International. You are truly living proof that green is good. REINHOLD ZIEGLER: Thank you very much, John.