What You Need to Know About EPA’s New Boss Andrew Wheeler

by H Sterling Burnett


Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a productive but tumultuous period for the agency. The good news? Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, will likely continue the needed reforms Pruitt began. In the immortal words of The Who, “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss.”

However history judges Pruitt’s tenure at EPA, critics and supporters can agree he initiated a series of efforts to fundamentally transform the antiquated agency. He ended sue-and-settle agreements; reshaped its science advisory committees; reduced graft; and rolled back myriad regulatory actions, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the massive increase in the Corporate Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE), and various energy efficiency mandates for appliances. Thanks to Pruitt, EPA is finally changing how it conducts business.

You might be concerned that Pruitt’s absence could result in a complete change in course, but fear not! President Donald Trump’s energy and environment agenda will not substantively change with Wheeler’s ascension to the agency’s top post.

Sadly, and not surprisingly, environmental zealots treated Wheeler’s appointment as though it is the end of the world. A Huffington Post headline stated, “Scott Pruitt’s Replacement Is Even Worse.” In the article, Frank O’Donnell, president of the left-wing group Clean Air Watch, stated, “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the environmental Titanic.”

The Left’s histrionic response to Wheeler mirrors its response to Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of an appointee’s qualifications, anyone Trump nominates to lead the EPA will inevitably be tarred and feathered by the Left and braded a climate-change-denying polluter. 

Environmentalists dread Wheeler for the same reason small-government advocates applaud him: Wheeler could be even more effective than Pruitt at rolling back onerous regulations. EPA’s new chief has significant experience working within and outside of the agency. In fact, Wheeler won awards for his work at the agency between 1991 through 1995. Subsequently, Wheeler worked as majority staff director and chief counsel at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, with EPA oversight. Wheeler will be more than capable to rein in EPA overreach.

The regulatory rollback at EPA started under Pruitt is expected to increase with Wheeler at the helm. EPA is currently working on overhauling CPP, WOTUS, and CAFE to improve transparency and ease compliance with commonsense guidelines.

In his short time as the agency’s acting administrator, there has been no shortage of statements supporting Wheeler as a more disciplined, less scandal prone replacement for Pruitt.

“We have full confidence in Andrew both from his past experience and the job he has done at EPA,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “We think he will carry on the Trump reform agenda in a really competent way.”

“For the top people at the EPA, the various Pruitt accusations have been a real challenge and a distraction,” Ebell continued. “Once Pruitt is gone, and Andrew is in charge, people will get back to doing their jobs everyday rather than accusations.”

“With Andy Wheeler stepping in to replace Pruitt, I think we’ll see a change in style but not in substance,” Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy administrator of the EPA in the George W. Bush administration, told the Washington Examiner. “Andy probably is the ideal person to lead EPA at this point.

“Pruitt got a lot of regulatory reforms started, but he’s never worked a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the administrative process and what it would take to get them finalized. Andy certainly does,” Holmstead said. “He’s worked on these issues for years and may actually be more effective than Pruitt when it comes to carrying out the reforms that Pruitt started.”

No one knows exactly what Wheeler’s tenure might mean for EPA climate policy. Driven by the endangerment finding, EPA has begun the process of drafting a replacement of CPP. However, if Wheeler’s past statements are any indication of EPA’s future actions, it seems like sound science will replace climate alarmism.

The Huffington Post notes in 2010, while working for the Senate, Wheeler “accused the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of blurring ‘the lines between science and advocacy’ and functioning ‘more as a political body than a scientific body,’ suggesting EPA could ‘reconsider its endangerment finding without almost exclusively relying upon the IPCC.’”

All Trump administration officials operate under an intense (and biased) media spotlight. It is difficult, if not impossible, for any Trump appointee to stay below the radar, but if anyone can remain effective and ethical, Andrew Wheeler certainly can. With his knowledge of the inner-workings of EPA’s regulatory processes and his low-key, non-confrontational style, Wheeler can complete the job Pruitt started and restore the EPA back to its mission:protect human health and the environment.



Measuring THT in Natural Gas

by Applied Analytics

 

Natural gas for direct consumption is odorized for safety reasons. In the odorizing process, a substance with extremely high odor is added to natural gas in a controlled method.
 

Natural gas for direct consumption is odorized for safety reasons. In the odorizing process, a substance with extremely high odor is added to natural gas in a controlled method. The odorized natural gas is then transmitted via pipelines into crowded urban settings and eventually into homes, schools, and workplaces.
 
In many cases, the smell of the gas is the only mechanism for leak detection and prevention of catastrophic explosions. Mercaptans are often used as odorants due to their low odor threshold. In Europe, tetrahydrothiophene (THT) is commonly used. Since the pipeline material absorbs some of the odorant out of the natural gas stream, the THT level is continuously monitored to ensure the gas is adequately odorized throughout the pipeline.

Case study:

At one border crossing in Western Europe, where custody of a natural gas pipeline is transferred, the operators depend on Applied Analytics technology to continuously validate odorant level at several points. An OMA-300 Process Analyzer is installed at each monitoring point with a dedicated sampling system for handling the high pressure natural gas.
 
Application: THT in Natural gas
Location: Western Europe
Equipment: OMA-300 Process Analyzer
Span Check: 5 PPM THT in Methane
 
Figure 1 visualizes how the OMA-300 sees the absorbance spectra of (a) un-odorized natural gas, (b) natural gas odorized with THT, and (c) 5 ppm THT in span gas. Sales-quality natural gas contains mostly methane, which does not absorb in the UV range. The absorbance curve seen in Figure 1 from 245-285 nm is the fingerprint of the aromatic compounds often present in low amounts in natural gas. To isolate THT absorbance, the unit is calibrated to the aromatic background. This procedure for interference-free, reliable odorant measurement is only possible with a multi-wavelength instrument that can properly subtract the aromatic absorbance.
 
Figure 1: UV absorbance spectra of un-odorized natural gas, odorized natural gas, and THT in span gas.
Each of the measurement checkpoints at this site receives natural gas flowing from a different source, such that each analyzer is being fed a stream with unique gas background matrix.
 
Figure 2 shows the absorbance spectra measured by the OMA-300 at various checkpoints. Table 1 shows the actual readings of THT in these natural gas streams.
 
Figure 2: UV absorbance spectra of THT in different natural gas sources.


 
Table 1: THT readings obtained from the lab and the online OMA-300 Process Analyzer.
Gas Source THT(PPM) THT OMA(PPM)
Gas 1 4.78 4.42
Gas 2 1.96 1.81
Gas 3 4.50 4.32
Gas 4 4.60 4.26
Gas 5 2.75 2.83

Conclusion

At this site, the OMA-300 has simplified pipeline operation by providing interference-free, automated odorant monitoring, giving the operators at-a-glance odorant levels at multiple checkpoints. Applied Analytics technology is trusted with the critical task of ensuring gas safety downstream into populated areas.



Trackside - Why the Incadescent Bulb Ban Amounts to Nothing

   by J.  D'Aloia


Elected officials often introduce laws for the sole purpose of having a piñata to bash for the cameras and the folks back home. Congressman Poe in the linked video is certainly making such use of the law banning incandescent light bulbs - I did not research to find out how he voted, but it matters not - he is making the most of it for his time in front of the camera.

My cynical side says the law was applauded by the environmental Luddites not because compact fluorescent light bulbs were reducing the dreaded greenhouse gases, but because the law was a means to further control society. Such is their goal. Demand changes in what society uses and how they use it to satisfy some environmental talking point. When the change has been ordained by a sycophantic legislative body, then raise a new issue and demand that new laws placing further control over society be enacted to counter the threats now spotlighted. More rules, more government, more taxes, less freedom.

Another cynical wonderment - why all the fuss about broken CFLs? Why has it not all played out for fluorescent tubes? They too have mercury in similar amounts. There has not been an avalanche of reports of people suffering from mercury poisoning from broken fluorescent tubes or moon-suited technicians cleaning up the family room after a tube was broken. Could it be that within the grand strategy, the timing was not right to play the poison card? And with LED light bulbs coming on the market, with an even greater energy efficiency (and much higher cost than CFLs), will CFLs be banned next? 

‘Tis a tempest in a teapot. CFLs do have a place in the grand scheme of things, especially for those lights the replacement of which is an all-day project, or if the spectrum you want cannot be obtained with an Edison special, or if your lighting demands are such that the cost vs. energy saved equation comes out to your benefit. Prudent respect for the dangers mitigates the dangers.

Tacitus nailed it in the First Century AD: "Corruptissima republicae, plurimae leges" - The worse the state, the more laws it has.

See you Trackside.


FBI Had Evidence That Russia Bribed Clinton Foundation Before Obama Approved Uranium Deal

by Randy DeSoto


"The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats."

The FBI had evidence as early as 2009 that Russian operatives were using bribes and kickbacks to compromise individuals involved in the U.S. nuclear industry, but it approved the controversial sale of a Canadian-owned uranium mining company anyway, according to a new report.

The Hill reported that the FBI possessed recordings and emails showing Russia using bribes and kickbacks to compromise employees of an American uranium trucking firm, but chose not to bring charges or inform the public for years.

In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat on a panel made up of Obama administration officials that approved the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian mining company, to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, thus turning over 20 percent of America’s known uranium reserves to Moscow.

The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” The Hill quoted a “person who worked on the case” as saying.  According to an affidavit from a federal agent, the scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks.

The Hill further noted that Russian nuclear officials “routed” millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, with the Obama Justice Department aware of the attempts to compromise Americans.

As previously reported by Western Journalism, a group of 64 House Republicans signed a letter last summer calling on the FBI, the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate alleged criminal conduct in regards to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.  The letter highlighted an appearance of “pay for play” regarding the sale of Uranium One, that raises “serious allegations of criminal conduct requiring further explanation.”

The lawmakers cited the evidence presented in Peter Schweizer’s 2015 book, Clinton Cash, including payments former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation received from Russian interests, as further backing for their call for further investigation.



Municipal Waste Combustion Management for a Cleaner Environment

by Allen Williams


As government regulations continue to play an increased role in the nation's economy, there is a demand for cheaper energy sources to promote economic growth.  

America is committing vast land resources for the storage of Industrial and residential waste.  Municipalities must contract out or arrange for waste  transportation to landfill sites which amount to vast quantities of energy buried.  

Municipal waste is a growing problem in both rural and urban communities across the United States. Toxins are leached from the materials in the landfill over time that potentially threaten the water supply and many of today's modern components take centuries to decay in the earth. Landfills contain Combustible materials that could provide low cost energy for cities as well as improve the environment.

Photo: Land fill space a growing problem../

The average American now discards approximately 16-20 pounds of solid waste per day per person. This waste has traditionally been disposed of in landfills, which require huge tracts of land and have finite storage capacity.  Many landfills will have to close by 2040, increasing the cost of trash disposal and preventing the land from more productive use.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has noted that the energy content of solid waste in landfills has been steadily rising over the last decade, hitting 11.73 million Btu/ton in 2005. The heat content of interred waste provides the basis for developing an engineered fuel supporting many industrial applications such as the production of hydrocarbons, solvents, motor fuels, and even electric power generation.

A 2010 study(3) has found that emissions from landfills versus municipal waste combustion using EPA's life cycle assessment (LCA) model for the range and scenarios evaluated, that waste combustion outperforms land filling in terms of Green House Gas emissions regardless of landfill gas management techniques.

Innovative technologies can use buried waste as energy to convert bio-waste into needed products.  Recently, Sweden's 144 million Kristianstad biogas plant has successfully converted municipal bio-waste into methane for use in automobiles and heating, saving some $3.5 million per year. Biogas can be further processed to produce organic liquids and even motor grade fuels.

Municipal Waste can be converted into fuel pellets with combustion performance comparable to coal. The solid waste can be processed with an engineered heat content amenable to fluidized bed and other furnace combustion equipment.  Optimally, the pellets could be manufactured to a specific heat content. This is accomplished by feeding shredded rubber from scrap tires into a Cuber machine to produce fuel cubes of very high heating value, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Btu/lb, suitable for utility power generation.

Developing a plan

The rising level of municipal waste provides incentive to develop alternative fuels but municipal waste contains many non-combustible components, some of which possess considerable recycle value. Recovery of these materials help to defer the cost of producing an engineered heat content fuel.  Figure 1 illustrates the potential economic return based on EPA waste content.

Figure 1 - Salvageable Materials And Byproducts Revenue

Locating a suitable waste transformation plant directly on a Landfill site saves added costs for property and waste transportation to a site as trucks are already servicing the  facility.  In natural gas producing landfills, a cheap supply of methane for hydrocarbon synthesis is readily available.

In cases where a bio-gas facility such as Johnson County Wastewater may be nearby, combustible waste sludge can be transported via pipeline for fueling a suitable fluidized bed boiler. The pipeline can pay for itself quickly as only the installation cost from the wastewater facility to the landfill need be considered.  Additionally, Industrial solvents such as methanol and other light hydrocarbons can be produced from the readily available methane feedstock along with steam and or electricity. 

Waste Site Considerations

An ideal plant site would be an 850-acre landfill of which approximately 770 acres are used for solid waste internment. Road infrastructure would already exist to handle the associated truck waste transport traffic. Only small infrastructure changes would be needed to support an onsite waste processing facility.

Waste transport vehicles would contain an average of 11 tons of municipal trash and make 1 to 3 trips per day to the site depending on weather and other factors. The landfill could receive as much as 5000 tons of trash per day, averaging nearly 19 trucks per hour.

Engineered fuels could be manufactured from this solid refuse on approximately 5 of the remaining 70 plus acres. The solid waste would be screened to remove various metals and other non-combustible materials before processing into specified heat content fuels.

Waste Separation process

Figure two illustrates dual waste handling units separating typical recyclable materials, shredding and blending recovered solids and vehicle tires from the municipal waste to produce a serviceable fuel pellet.  It is a time and motion illustration of the effort required to produce a 24% blend of solid waste and rubber.  The chart was developed from a real waste processing pilot operation by RCR Partners of Colorado during the early 1980's.

Since that time computer model studies have shown that a 50-50 waste blend of solids and scrap tires provided a better heat content fuel at 10,221 Btu/lb suitable for a small industrial boiler consuming approximately 30 tons of fuel pellets per hour.  The 50-50 blend represents only an incremental change in processing times.

The 2010 RCR industries salvageable Materials and Byproducts chart documents recovery revenues that are used to offset the cost of manufacturing an engineered fuel which is the basis of the Figure 2 chart.  From this study, recyclable materials savings, operating and labor costs can be estimated.

Figure 2 - Solids Separation and Fuel Pellet manufacture


RCR Material Flow

Bags enter the breaker machine from the truck where large boxes and bags are opened without damaging the contents. This permits the separation of light and heavy components. Food waste is removed prior to mechanical separation.

The solid waste moves through three mechanical separators upon entering the waste handling facility to remove glass, metal cans and plastic. Separation efficiency is greater than 90%.

Material next enters the first of two identical separators, all components less than 1-½” size pass through the first separator and are collected together with any metals in a common bin. These materials require further processing to segregate glass and metal

Separator No 3 removes all fractions less than 3" x 8”. Plastics fall into a collection bin exiting the 3rd separator.

The remaining material enters the shredder and is now all light fraction material.

The shredder slices the solid waste into approximately a ¾” size. The material passes through a cyclone separator to remove any dust generated by the shredding operation. The material can then be moistened and compressed by a Cuber machine into approximately 1-1/2" x 2" size fuel pellets.

The pellets may then be conveyed to storage vessels.

Photo: Fuel Pellets conveyed to Storage


Economics

Company reports are often good sources of economic cost data. Our fuel processing cost is estimated from an RCR Partners pilot plant study for the year's 1982-'83. The ordinary expense average for these years was $2,308,500 per year and defines the fixed costs. The Jan. '84 - Mar. '11 inflation rate was 146.7%, adjusting the ordinary expenses to present costs gives $5,694,244 per year.

The following utility rates were used in the economic evaluation: Coal at $55.00/ton, electricity at 7.3 cents per kilowatt, plant water for 3.2 cents a gallon and engineered fuel expenses according to the following cost relation.  Fuel Cost/(ton) = X% * fixed cost + (1-X)% * rubber + processing

The base rate is calculated from the total production cost minus the revenue from salvageable materials separated out during the manufacturing process, i.e.  [$Cost - $Salvage]/Total Tons = $Cost/ton

The salvageable material quantities from waste separation that can be re-sold are indicated in figures 1and 2.  Ferrous metal scrap pays a max of $250/ton, Aluminum $0.75/lb and plastics $150/ton.  Salvageable tire steel belt is 2.5 lbs/tire:

Details of computer simulated quantities and expected margins in the production of an organic solvent using engineered fuel pellets may be found in the July 2012 issue of Chemical Engineering, Vol 119, No. 7


Conclusions

One of the most significant features of engineered fuels is the ability to reduce the quantity of sulfur that must be scrubbed out of atmospheric releases during combustion.  In our simulation, the computer model predicted a 20.67% reduction in SO2 emissions..

Mercury is virtually eliminated from stack gas emissions and other airborne contaminants can be significantly reduced through controlled waste blending.

Combusting Municipal waste in a controlled environment not only alleviates the need for further land repositories but may also facilitate recovery of burnable materials from many existing landfills.

Literature Cited:


1. "Methodology for Allocating Municipal Solid Waste to Biogenic and Non-Biogenic Energy", Energy Information Administration, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels U.S., May 2007 Report

2. “Evaluating Green Projects – Modeling Improves Economic Benefits”, A. Williams, K. Dunwoody, Chemical Engineering – 119, 7, July 2012

3.   "Life-Cycle Assessment of Waste Management Greenhouse Gas Emissions Using Municipal Waste Combustor Data", J. Envir. Engr. 136, 749 (2010); doi:10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000189 (7 pages),Brian Bahor, Michael Van Brunt, P.E., Keith Weitz, and Andrew Szurgot

4. "Multisolid Fluidized Bed Combustion", H. Nack, R.D. Litt, B.C. Kim, Chemical Engineering Progress, Jan 1984

5. "Energy Recovery from Fluidized Bed Combustion", Robert J. Sneyd, Chemical Engineering Progress, Jan 1984

6. "Methodology for Allocating Municipal Solid Waste to Biogenic and Non-Biogenic Energy", Energy Information Administration, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels, May 2007 Report