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CWT's CEO Calls

Last month, I wrote a blog entry (and a follow-up) on thermal depolymerization, a potentially revolutionary new process:

The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores... [W]aste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.
The first comment on my original entry didn't come for five days, but then the flood started. Within a couple of weeks, a Google search on "thermal depolymerization" listed my blog entry first (it's now down to third), and by yesterday, the entry had accumulated 250 comments.

With that, I wrote to Changing World Technologies (CWT), the company behind thermal depolymerization, and invited them to submit a guest entry for the blog. Somewhat to my surprise, a comment appeared today apparently written by the CEO of CWT, Brian Appel. I immediately made a call to his office to confirm its authenticity. Less than an hour later, my phone rang -- it was Brian himself calling to confirm the what he had written. Here's his comment in full:

Dear Frank,

Your web site is an interesting tool to review in part public opinion regarding our process. It provides some hope since the majority of the comments were positive and correct, but like all open forums you realize there is another very small group whose anger blinds their ability to see things clearly and who impede breakthroughs. Basically they fail to see the positive impact companies like ours will have on our environment. We were not looking for any public exposure but it certainly has found us. This exposure was not meant to be disruptive to anyones business or to be a surprise.

We have received thousands of inquires with the majority of those looking to make an investment. We are flattered by the interest. We have no current plans to hype a market or to go public, although we are asked daily to do so.

Some of the comments we received are very amusing, in particular the ones where the armchair engineers and scientists are guessing the mass and energy balances for a process that they know nothing about. It underscores why we have environmental problems because these are the same people we are counting on to find solutions to a growing concern. I think some still think the world is flat.

In any event we offer some comments to your audience. Right now we can only offer you "hope" that a more peaceful world is within our reach. Once we shortly begin operations and confirm our process we can deploy many facilities that will impact our waste markets in a more dramatic fashion.

CWT's process is for real. The plant in Missouri is complete and we are in the start-up phase. The energy efficiency is correctly stated. How we do this is our business but it is standard within many industrial applications. This is not transesterficatin, incineration, gasification or the biodiesel. Our first out plant is competitive with a small E&P company. Our diverse talented team has developed a business model that can be quickly replicated. I suggest you visit MIT's science publication web site at www.technologyreview.com and to pull up the article "Garbage into Oil". They have cleverly provided an animation of a turkey going through the process. This will help provide a visual as to what happens in our multi-step system.

You can expect additional articles in the near future regarding what we do. The SEC already opened and shut an investigation regarding our company. They also thought we were hyping something here. The goods news for all of us is that they appear pro-active in protecting the public. I applaud their efforts. To some we know that is disappointing but to the majority of you it is one more step to validate that a paradigm shift is blowing in the wind.

We are committed and focused on cleaning up waste, validating renewable energy, and helping to minimize global warming. Our partners and our staff are committed to making the world a better place.

We can not respond to all of the letters and e-mail. Most we can only say thank you for your kind words. To the negative ones this is our only comment. No statues erected for critics. Stand aside and get out of the way of real progress. The world needs solutions not town criers.

Frank, we do thank you and most of the writers for you support and comment. We know hope is resting on our shoulders. We will not let you down, as we are committed to our business, our environment and to all the worlds' well being.

Best Regards,
Brian Appel
Chairman & CEO

One more thought, some of the questions we received was from teachers looking for teaching aid information to educate our children. I taught my 11-year-olds science class the other day. They are studying the environment and effects from pollution people have created. They we all glowing with excitement. They were interested in what we could all do to make the world a better place. They didn't take the position of what we are not and what we could not do. It was refreshing to hear out of the "mouth of babes" this perspective. It gives me hope!

I had an extremely pleasant talk with Brian. He's passionate about what his company is doing and is an extremely effective spokesperson. It's clear that many people are interested in the possibilities raised by thermal depolymerization, and that we're going to be hearing much more about it in the coming weeks and months.

Brian, thanks for the call, and rest assured you and your team have a great many fans cheering you on.

[The Technology Review article and animation Brian referred to can be found here.]


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I've always hoped that technology, properly applied, would provide the answers to the environmental problems that technology, recklessly applied, had wrought. Maybe it wasn't a pipe dream after all. Like many other environmentalists, I'll be following CWT's progress closely. (And if TDP pans out, I expect to be consuming a lot of Butterballs in the years to come!) I can see a dizzying array of applications to ameliorate a vast number of point-source pollution problems, from our mountains of used and useless tires and old asphalt, to MSW, to food processing waste, especially if the TDP process is as scalable as Brian Appel claims. And if he and his partners become as wealthy as Bill Gates, they'll deserve it.
I'd like to know how clean the water effluent from the process turns out to be; if all the TDP waste water comes from the steam used to heat the incoming feedstock, wouldn't it be totally sterile, and nearly chemically pure? If so, couldn't it be cooled to ambient temps, aerated, and then discharged directly into waterways?

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