A recycled products manufacturer and a tire shredding operation have signed a letter of intent to build a tire pyrolysis plant.
The letter, signed Sept. 6, calls on Tampa, Fla.-based EarthFirst Technologies Inc. and Tire Recyclers Inc. of Richmond, Va., to set up the pyrolysis facility at TRI's tire processing plant in Charles City.
Besides producing No. 3 grade oil and scrap steel, the EarthFirst-TRI pyrolysis plant will be the first ever to offer tire-grade carbon black, according to an EarthFirst press release. It will be designed to process an average of 100 tons of used tires per day, and the Charles City shredding plant's current annual volume of 3 million-plus tires will be the amount needed for the pyrolysis facility, EarthFirst said.
Both EarthFirst and TRI invested considerably in studying different pyrolysis systems, EarthFirst added, and they finally ``identified a preferred technology provider with a proprietary pyrolysis process.''
Christopher R. Sauer, a full-time consultant to EarthFirst, declined to name the technology provider pending further agreements. He did say, however, that it is ``a major company with a solid reputation in similar technologies.''
According to Mr. Sauer, EarthFirst was established to make valuable, environmentally superior products from materials previously considered waste.
The company announced what it called a major breakthrough in late August, when it signed a letter of intent with APEX Adsorbents Corp. to jointly commercialize APEX's technology to convert biomass into pelletized activated carbon and combustible gas.
Everyone at EarthFirst is aware that no previous pyrolysis operation has been commercially successful, according to Mr. Sauer.
``The road to success is paved with skeletons,'' he said. ``We looked very intensely at why the other projects failed.'' Their conclusion, he added, was that products such as scrap steel, oil and gases will never be enough to make a pyrolysis operation pay.
``The name of the game is a very high-quality carbon black,'' he said. ``For the very first time, a pyrolysis operation will be able to create a carbon black that can be used to make tires and as a rubber filler in any number of applications.''
EarthFirst's Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that it has operated consistently in the red since its founding four years ago. It experienced negative operating cash flows of $5.3 million in fiscal 2000 and $7.8 million in fiscal 2001.
``We have refined the company in the last few months and are absolutely confident we will become profitable in the not-too-distant future,'' Mr. Sauer said.
Officials of TRI could not be reached for comment.