Spokane Journal of Business

MPM Technologies, partners pursue biofuels niche

Parties hope to advance alternative gas production

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MPM Technologies Inc., a 25-year-old Spokane-based provider of environmental control systems and developer of waste-to-energy technology, says it’s working with Washington State University and a software consulting company to research and develop gasification technology that creates biofuels, including jet biofuel.

Brian Burrow, MPM Technologies’ interim chief financial officer, says that under a recent agreement, WSU professors and students will gain access for research to plasma-arc gasification technology that MPM’s Spokane-based subsidiary, Carbon Cycle Power, is developing.

Gasification is a chemical process that converts carbon-based materials, including municipal solid waste and biomass, into a mixture called synthesis gas that includes primarily hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and often some carbon dioxide and methane.

Burrow says that the fuel mixture comes out in a gaseous state, which can be burned to create electricity or converted through processing into liquid fuel.

MPM Technologies also has a recent agreement with consulting company Neos-SDI Co., which has its U.S. headquarters in Kirkland, Wash., to provide a proprietary software system to control, track, and report the processes of the gasification technology.

 “We believe that it’s important to partner with other thought leaders and innovators,” says Burrow. “These two organizations are great at what they do, and by working together, we can accelerate the further development and commercial application of our technology.” 

He says Carbon Cycle Power owns a technology and process that uses a photon-induced electric arc field in an oxygen-free environment to break down matter to its molecular level. 

“What begins as wood, straw, garbage, or rubber tires becomes a spectrum of gasses comprised of basic elemental building blocks, such as hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen,” he says. 

He adds, “To put it simply, our machine is a bit like a giant bug zapper. It uses electricity and a unique chain reaction to vaporize material on contact. By capturing the gasses, we can make a number of valuable products, such as electricity, chemicals, or liquid fuel while also safely disposing of waste.”

MPM Technologies is located in a leased office at 221 W. Main, where it shares space with Spokane-based Carbon Cycle Investments LLC. That company owns a group of environmental sustainability businesses and has a controlling ownership interest in MPM Technologies following a stock purchase agreement last April.

Along with being interim chief financial officer for MPM Technologies, Burrow serves as Carbon Cycle Investments’ business development officer.

He says eight people work in the Spokane office here for the two companies, and that combined, the two concerns have just under 20 employees total when including people working here and elsewhere in Washington state and New Jersey.

MPM Technologies, in addition to owning Carbon Cycle Power and the gasification technology, also owns AirPol Inc., which designs customized air pollution control systems for large paper mills and foundries, Burrow says. He says the systems are intended to improve air quality inside manufacturing plants and to reduce plant emissions. AirPol has two employees based in New Jersey to handle design and development work, but the company uses East Coast fabricators to make the units, Burrow says.

Carbon Cycle Investments also owns Carbon Cycle Crush, a canola-crushing processing plant to create oils and other products and that’s located in Oroville, Wash., which is 180 miles northwest of Spokane. The facility has eight employees and crushes about 25 tons of canola seed a day. 

Additionally, Carbon Cycle Investments owns BioLube 100, also headquartered here but with operations at the Oroville plant, which it formed recently to create a line of bio-based lubricants for use in the aerospace, automotive, and food-processing industries, Burrow says.

MPM’s original technology of gasification was last applied in the marketplace in the 1990s for two commercial installations in Italy, he says. The company is working to upgrade the process and apply newer technology to meet a variety of commercial applications needs today, Burrow adds. 

“It’s a piece of technology with ancillary equipment that can have many different applications, and we can produce those units,” he says. “How that’s applied will vary and change with each facility. It can be used to turn waste into energy, and it can be made to make liquid fuel.”

He adds, “As we look to build the gasification unit, we’ll be looking to use as many local vendors in the Spokane area as we can.”

Burrow declines to disclose when the company plans to begin production. He says the company will work with a Pullman-based researcher in biological systems engineering, and that MPM also plans to collaborate with researchers here and use the applied sciences lab in the new pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences building on the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane.

Burrow says gasification was invented in the early 1800s, but the technology has advanced substantially in the past few decades. He says the MPM Technologies agreement with WSU grew from recent meetings of Innovate Washington’s aviation biofuels workgroup, which worked together most of last year to provide a report to state leaders on alternative fuel research and development.  

The group published the report, “Aviation Biofuels Update,” in December.  

MPM and Neos-SDI representatives first met at the Washington state governor’s trade delegation at the 2013 Paris Air Show. 

Treva Lind
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