Duke in Deep Doo Doo: Terre Haute Sludge
So, who will bring joy to Terre Haute first — Santa or the guys from Powerdyne bearing big bucks? We thought the proposed biofuel project would never generate anything but bitter resentment over the way Mayor Bennett signed a contract without public input.
Looking at their website, we found Powerdyne is essentially two guys: Geoff Hirson and Gus Shouse. Their advisory board is also a duo, Spencer Abraham and Majida Mourad, both members of the Abraham Group. A connection with Powerdyne is not mentioned on the Abraham website, so we figured maybe Powerdyne was not considered a major energy player the way the Bennett administration seemed to think it was!
Ostensibly, Abraham is a big shot. He was named Secretary of Energy by George W. Bush, serving through Bush II’s first term. As a Michigan Senator, Abraham had introduced a bill to abolish the Department of Energy. Life is funny that way.
Anyway, despite this possible major league Republican connection, we leapt to the conclusion that the Powerdyne guys would have no money to put where their contract is, or clout to raise some funding.
Apparently, were we wrong. And we’ve been wrong before.
In one of our first articles for the Sardonic Spectator, we suggested a flag for Terre Haute with the slogan “Don’t Crap on Me!” We are working on amending this to “Send us your crap and yard scrap!”
We’ve also written about local attempts to bring attention to the Wabash River, and develop it into a destination for arts and recreation. We supported that general concept, concerned only with the slow pace of progress.
Now that adjacent property has been sold to Powerdyne for industrial use, perhaps we’ll again have to turn away from the river, despite assurances that there will be no odor or pollution involved in turning waste into biofuel.
“Jobs!” is the rallying call of those who have stepped up to cheer Bennett’s genius. We don’t know what these jobs will be, aside from the “couple of guys” Mayor Bennett assures us are sufficient to manage 200 tons of yard waste a day. Maybe there will be some sequential hiring for these jobs, as it seems likely these two guys would soon be hospitalized with hernias.
We didn’t hear the Powerdyne pitch, and those who did aren’t being really clear about what kind of employment opportunities will follow the money.The press release from Powerdyne about their purchase of property on the banks of the Wabash does promises hundreds of jobs. Is this gospel truth?
Having never met either half of the Powerdyne Corporation, we can’t judge their moral characters. We’ve had to resort to judging a man by his 140 characters. Hirson has a Twitter account. On January 23rd of this year, his tweet included a want ad for a Fischer Tropsch design manufacturer.
From this, we infer (without much effort) that Powerdyne’s planned facility to be served by Terre Haute waste products will involve the Fischer Tropsch process or one similar to it. This process for producing synthetic fuel, developed in Germany in 1925, has most often been used with coal and gas, but it can be employed with biomass.
As far as large scale operations to create fuel from wood, there is currently a biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland. According to the UPM website, the facility “…producing wood-based renewable diesel from forestry residue, will commence production in 2014.” Note the use of future tense; it hasn’t been updated to show that any fuel has been made. Also important to note is that this biorefinery is located on the same site as the company’s pulp and paper mill, which makes sense if you 200 tons of wood waste each day.
Somewhat closer to home, a company called Rentech, primarily in the wood pulp business, apparently operated a demonstration scale Fischer Tropsch plant in Commerce City, California. However, they recently sold the technologies and equipment from that facility to a Chinese venture (not to our friends at Powerdyne).
Another entry from Hirson’s Twitter feed that we found of interest was posted December 17, 2013: “Powerdyne has a ready tested, proven fuel technology that would create synthetic jet fuel for ships out of sea water.”
Maybe the next thing up for Terre Haute is to collect the salt from Terre Haute streets this winter and dump it in the Wabash. We can hardly wait to see what’s in store for 2016.
Relating articles of interest:
- Mayor Bennett should appoint a panel to renegotiate Powerdyne contracts, by Roger C. Ward, Sr., Professional Engineer and Board Certified Environmental Engineer Indianapolis
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About The Author
Lucinda Berry was born in Terre Haute, got a B.A. in English from Indiana State University, studied in Oxford, England, and worked in Shimonoseki, Japan and traveled a good deal in Asia, got an M.A. in Linguistics from Indiana University, and eventually ended up back in Terre Haute. Her favorite place in Terre Haute is the Swope Art Museum. If she happened to be there when a fire broke out, she would rush to save Jack Levine’s “A Joy Forever.”
Geoff and Gloria were my tenants in Newport Beach, CA. As a Professor of Physics Emeritus I was interested in Powerdyne’s technology, especially since it was used municipal waste as fuel. but he seemed spmewhat reluctant to engage