Landfill Energy Project May Be Just Garbage

After getting some negative comments as well as talking with an engineer, the GUARDIAN’s red flag began to wave over the electric generation project with Dynamis and Lloyd Mahaffey at the Ada Landfill.

Last week the DAILY PAPER ran a big page one story which clearly said the firm operates a trash-to-electricity project at Barrow, Alaska. After talking directly with the plant operator on the frigid North Slope, we determined that to be NOT TRUE. There is NO ELECTRIC GENERATING PLANT at the Barrow trash facility. In fact the Dynamis thermal incinerator CONSUMES cheap locally abundant natural gas to heat the trash and reduce the mass by a factor of 10. Ten yards of municipal solid waste shrinks to 1 yard of ash. Not only was the Statesman under the impression trash was generating electricity in the tiny borough of about 4,500 souls, but Ada Commishes had same thought.

In the Statesman piece, Commish Sharon Ullman acknowledged the county put $2 million toward the Dynamis project, which it will get back within the next six months, Ullman said. “We paid for development of the plans. Dynamis will purchase the plans back from us. This arrangement qualifies for stimulus money,” Ullman said.

It is a very real possibility the county could be left holding a set of worthless plans for “dream power.” If it turns out that way the Commishes need to cut their (our) losses and not try to create a warm glow out of cold trash, claiming it is worthwhile to reduce the volume of waste even if the energy science turns out to be faulty and the pretense false.

We tried to get Idaho Power to comment on the proposed project for our skeptical July GUARDIAN post, but the utility declined, citing a policy of not commenting on proposals that have not been agreed upon.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. i think we can pretty much conclude that “nothing Lloyd touches is made of gold” but instead consists mainly of smoke and mirrors. nice work by the County. pretty creative -laundering stimulas money through their books in hopes private enterprise pays it back. jeez. maybe Sharon can find a creative way to use stimulas funds for fronting the cost to have Dynamis incinerate the old beat down horse racing facilities at the fairground. then scare up another stimulas grant to build some nice new facilites back. now we’re cooking with gas. pun intended.

  2. Remember Don Gillespie?? The deciders liked him too.

  3. Thanks for the “shovel work” Guardian. I must admit the Statesman article had me hook, line, and sinker! This is yet another example of the significant impact you have on this community!

    EDITOR NOTE–We don’t know if the can profitably generate electricity, but we DO KNOW there is no generating plant at Barrow, Alaska as claimed. If they try to sell that as a “misunderstanding” we will be even more skeptical.

  4. Thanks for doing some real investigation. The Daily Paper never investigates cause they just print what the County Manager (ex-media guy) provides to them, lock stock and barrel. But what does it mean that the county made this type of deal and handed someone $2 million in the process? And why did they do so? What was their motivation to push through such an odd deal? Looks like a bit more investigation might be in order.

    EDITOR NOTE–County was sold a bill of goods and was scrambling to take advantage of Obama stimulus deadline for cash. It is illegal to “lend credit or cash” so the county agreed to “buy” the plans for $2 million and have Dynamis buy them back. The deal was done without bid and is trashy any way you cut it.

  5. Philip D. Mannlein
    Feb 20, 2011, 1:52 pm

    For two years I have worked with the principals of Dynamis Energy. I believe that the Idaho Statesman misunderstood some of the information. The plant in Borrow, Alaska was build over twenty five years ago my the individual that created the geometric design of the combustion chamber of which Lloyd owns the patient, NOT THE PLANT. The purpose of the plant is to destroy waste that the city produces instead of shipping it out of a very fragile environment. The plant has accomplished exactly it was built for. The plant has produced enough data to SUPPORT the creation of plant that could produce electricity after retro fitting a Siemens generator.

    To clear up some confusion the plant does use natural gas but this is during the initial combustion phase. Natural gas is used for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to ignite the waste. A feed stock of rubber tires (that is shipped to Idaho from Seattle and Portland) is added to the chamber to increase the burn time. Once this is done a vortex is created to by injecting oxygen into the process to maintain a 3000 degree burn temperature. So ask yourself this very simple question. If the EPA has approved the emissions process (after three different and independent inspections) and you are reducing the global carbon foot print while producing electricity and another revenue stream, how can this be a bad investment? Now really…

    EDITOR NOTE–We have voiced concerns about the current practice of shipping recyclables to Portland and Seattle and now you say they are going to ship tires from the Coast back to Boise and it will somehow produce a lower carbon footprint? Did any of you contact either the Statesman or the Commishes to explain there is no operational electric generation plant?

  6. I’m still not clear on how expending this much energy to make ash and gas out of waste in a big kiln is reducing the carbon footprint. Please show energy units in vs. energy units out. Include all energy in. O2 for example, is separated and compressed at the expense of energy.

    Is a great idea for the situations where nasty stuff needs to be reduced to dust. Perhaps use on navy ships before they toss trash in the sea? Or hazmat reduction. There is a market for it I’m sure.

    What we need here in Idaho is an improved process for less expense.

    Whenever I hear a lot of AlGore buzzwords without a lot of science, my hair stands up.

  7. As a chemical engineer with some experience in pyrolysis and combustion, albeit with coal and not with trash, this project does not appear, to me, to be rocket science.

    It looks like natural gas would need to be consumed to get the combustion started, but afterward the furnace should be sustainable using trash only as fuel. Sustaining the reaction using such low grade fuel would appear to be the tricky bit, but they seemed to have perfected that in Barrow. Harnessing the heat to make steam, and consequently electricity, in a closed loop cycle is a well understood process too. Power plants all over the world do it every day. The fuel in this case is less conventional, but the principles remain the same.

    Making power from trash? Technologically it’s not a very sexy concept, but if it makes money for the county to help offset reduced property tax revenue, while creating a few jobs for the valley, what could it hurt?

  8. Cynthia Sewell
    Feb 22, 2011, 7:07 am

    Lloyd Mahaffey did not tell me the Barrow, Alaska, plant produced energy. The Barrow plant is the first use of the patented gasification technology. A plant can either only gasify the waste or it can both gasify the waste and then convert the gas into electricity. The Barrow plant does the former, the proposed Ada and Clark plants do the latter. I was never under the impression the Barrow plant generated electricity and any lack of clarity in the article is my fault. Again, Mahaffey did not tell me the Barrow plant is producing energy. A simple phone call to me or Mahaffey would have confirmed this.

  9. You better watch it Cynthia! I am going to have to stop referring to your paper as the “daily rag”!I think you are doing a bang-up job!(although we still need to do something with Popkey)
    Susan, there is something about intelligent women…… Thanks for the clarification.

  10. OK, now I’ve seen it all. The reporter from the Statesman defending Lloyd Mahaffey. Who is this guy? He gets the county to hand him two million bucks without anyone apparently conducting any investigation. And now Cynthia Sewell tries to deflect any criticism heading Mahaffey’s way?
    The real question is why. I feel she and the commissioners “doth protest too much.” Keep digging Dave.

  11. I agree with Amazed. Follow-up article, please. Since when does the “poverty-stricken” county arrange two million dollar loans for private developers without public input? When will the money be repaid? What stimulus funds? Lloyd is a developer/contractor in Eagle; started five-acre vignettes in Eagle foothills with hopes of an Eagle wine region designation for the area.


  12. OK,KTA. What the hell is IPC/SPJ??
    You may make me look stupid, but that is OK. At my age, it is allowed.(It is bad enough that I just bought my first smart phone and have to have my 13 year old grest nephew teach me how to use it)

  13. Cyclops, All,

    My apologies. IPC/SPJ means member of the Idaho Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. Media members do read and monitor each other.


  14. Thanks KTA.No apologies necessary! You showed yours, so I will show mine.


    Kansas City BBQ Society
    Certified Master Judge
    Certified Judge Instructor
    KCBS Contest Rep

    That’s correct! I get paid to travel around North America and run competitive BBQ contests.
    I know… but someone has to do it!!

  15. According to the Statesman article Commissioner Sharon Ullman said “The county put $2 million toward the Dynamis project, which it will get back within the next six months,..” If the contracts were signed in June 2010 where is the money now? BTW, I can’t find any records of meetings about this until the contract was signed

  16. Paul,

    Don’t be surprised if something shows up via MUR (Made Up Records)on the Web. Keep a wary eye on this latest “business” deal. This is, of course, just my opinion.


  17. Missouri Tex.
    Feb 25, 2011, 6:30 pm

    Wow, Mr. Mannlein, patented vortex geometric combustion of old tires, helped along by natural gas and pure oxygen, and global carbon footprint!?

    We’re gonna burn all of the Northwest’s old tires, and that’s going to clean the air???

    Yeah, how can this be a bad investment? Shirley, this will definitely generate electricity worth more than the plant costs to operate, right? Where’s the data?

    Man, rainbows and bunnies. I can hardly wait.

    EDITOR NOTE–Dynamis has since told the GUARDIAN there are no plans to import tires and burn them.

  18. Having worked on numerous CERCLA Superfund Sites, installing Monitoring Wells, Soil Borings sampling soil, surface water and groundwater, and constructing contour maps of contaminant concentrations, ash generated from burning refuse contains (among other things) Dibenzofurans & 2378 DiBenzo-p- Dioxin. This ash is TOXIC!

    Sundry plastics, paints, hodge podge household debris, drycell batteries (containing Mercury and other metals such as Nickel), Lead Chromium & Cadmium, Chlordane, Dieldrin, DDT, Lead, PCBs (among a plethora) can be released into the atmosphere as well, as result of combustion processes.

    Volume reduction potentially causes releases to the air which we breathe, unless all gaseous compounds are properly captured (e.g., in activated charcoal) or cryogenic methods. But these efforts cost money, and some Landfill Operators save Money by cutting corners. (Who would have thought)…

    While contained in properly lined landfills, the leachate liquids can be collected and processed, at least, to avoid offsite groundwater migration, such as, with the case at Lorenz Barrel & Drum (10th & Alma Streets, San Jose, CA) where waste was poured, dumped and burned with sludge, solids & liquids from hundreds of thousands of 55 gallon Drums (the bottom inch or so) (from Silicon Valley and Industrial Chemical Plants) (Hint: think recycling — from 1940s – 1980s) wastes disposed onsite, (until they migrated offsite) (essentially across the street from Spartan Stadium).

    An incinerator removed paint from the 55-gallon drums prior to being repainted and sold (recycled) and also burned myriad organic items onsite, the location of which had huge concentrations of Toxics including Dioxins, PCBs and Pentachlorophenol). This was across the street from the San Jose Community Gardens – think Vegetables, yes).

    “Sanitary” Landfills include items that may have languised for over 50 years and thus contain PCBs, DDT, Chlordane, Dieldrin, Aldrin and numerous compounds that have since been banned. Burning them (reduces the landfill volume) and delightfully releases them into the atmosphere.

    Landfills Stink, so instead, burn it and “Breathe” Deep.

  19. i remember listening about the tax credits for a bio energy plant, and i imediatley, thought, you mean a garbage dump, here is a joke I saw about landfills,

  20. Dynamis has been running all over the country trying to financing for their projects. They have one large problem. Their project will not meet the required criteria to obtain financing. They are dead in the water. The 2 million they have obtained has been used to finance thier staff and expenses. Good luck getting your 2 million back.

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