By Brian Graves, Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 —
Richard Tucker says for him and his company, they’ve entered the perfect storm.
The engineering firm is preparing a 1,000-hour test run of their gasification process for the U.S. Forest Service, fabricating an order for a company in Great Britain and preparing the plans for a new production plant in Badin.
That plant will be located at the old ALCOA site and could be up and running as soon as spring of 2013.
Tucker confirmed his plans in an interview with the SNAP Monday morning.
His engineering group has developed a device that more efficiently runs the pyrolysis gasification process which turns forms of waste into methane gas and carbon.
Some estimates say the process could divert 340,000 tons of waste annually from local landfills.
The by-products can also be used as energy and other different ways.
“The test run has to be done in the fabrication facility we have, so we expanded the facility to be able to continue the fabrication while we do the 1,000 hour run inside our primary location in Locust,” Tucker said.
“We’ve put together as much of the system as we can in that fabrication facility to emulate what would actually be going on in a plant setting.”
He said the plant would have much more components to make it an efficient production process.
Tucker said that currently, his team is only able to fabricate one unit every two months.
With the new plant, he said it is conceivable one unit could be processed every day.
“If we have orders of the magnitude we expect, it would be an impossibility (to produce the units at the Locust site),” Tucker said.
“It’s been a great place to get us started and we may even use it for research and development. But, as far as fabricating and manufacturing, it’s just not capable of what we need to do.”
That is where the ALCOA site has come into play.
“The opportunity came about and we’re very happy to be able to move into that business park they are putting together,” Tucker said.
“We’re timing it so when we come back from England, it’ll be time for us to move into Badin at the ALCOA plant site.”
He said he had received some calls from Georgia about an order for more systems.
“We will be pushed even then to get everything put together and get those orders cranking,” Tucker said.
He said that one of the bright points about the project is being able to bring in “young talent” into the organization to help move the project along.
To begin the process, Tucker has placed Stanly County native Levi Greene as the plant manager.
He said the planning for the new plant has began with plats and drawings under way and will be ongoing even while many of the team is in England.
“The remnants of who is here will be doing the logistics of planning what we need to do at the Badin Business Park building. We will be initially moving into it to get it operational so hopefully we can be building units in March or April,” Tucker said.
He said the estimates now are that the plant will employ 20 to 30.
“I think there will be more as we continue to grow,” Tucker said.
“Our initial building in the ALCOA development park is going to be a smaller, but more accessible building that they have available. They know we have expressed the need for growing into a larger building such as their machine shop which is perfect for what we need.”
Greene is a graduate of West Stanly High School and resided in Locust.
He went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, then moved to find work.
His wife and he had been in the greater Detroit area, but have now returned home.
“This is huge,” Greene said.
“This is a game-changer. Everytime I talk with Richard and the group, I learn something new. Not just little things, but big things. It’s amazing. It’s going to transform how we treat waste in this country.”
Greene said this is also a way to get people working in Stanly County.
“I don’t think it’s right that we’ve been a bedroom community for Charlotte for as long as I can remember,” Greene said.
“No one that I know that I can think of that went to college after high school works in Stanly County. I think that’s silly because we’ve got a lot of bright people that come from here.”
Greene says there is no doubt the demand for the units produced here “will go crazy.”
“It runs. People can see it and people are extremely interested in it. It’s going to take off. We’ve got to be ready for that,” Greene said.
He said the biggest challenge would be handling things in the short term while preparing for the long term when a significant number of the units will have to be produced.
Tucker said there had been significant attempts to bring his company to other areas.
“There was never a question in my mind about it,” he said.
“We were and are going to do this in Stanly County.”