December 14, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: SIS04
Welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast!
Special Interview Series – THP04: Bill Smith / XcelPlus International – I had the pleasure to interview Bill on plasma gasification of waste and his decades of experience in the industry. He has some amazing stories and his insights are critical to propelling the hydrogen industry forward. Energy is rapidly evolving. New forms of energy are required to meet the world’s ever-growing demand for clean, green energy. They are developing and releasing new forms of energy through the process of plasma gasification – including synthetic fuels, hydrogen, and green electricity – in order to transition our world away from polluting forms of energy production.
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Paul Rodden 0:00
What’s up, everyone? Welcome to the hydrogen podcast with me today is Bill Smith. He’s the founder of XcelPlus, I’m excited for today’s interview we’re going to be talking about is their modular waste to energy model and how they’re looking to clean up America, one landfill at a time. It’s a great technology. I’m looking forward to hearing Bill’s thoughts on it today and sharing with you. So with that being said, we’re going to go and cue up the theme song, and we’ll get right into this interview. So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden. And welcome to the hydrogen podcast. All right, welcome back. Today, like I said, is Bill Smith, founder of XcelPlus, Bill has an extensive background in corporate finance, structure, reverse mergers and implementation from idea to product marketing and distribution. He founded XcelPlus in 2000, with the concept of using plasma gasification to help satisfy an increasing demand for energy from waste streams. Welcome, Bill. Great to have you here.
Bill Smith 1:26
Great, thank you, Paul. It’s an interesting subject.
Paul Rodden 1:29
It really is, you know, the the whole idea of plasma gasification to create hydrogen is is a great method and especially how you’re looking at it and targeting waste, like actual solid landfill waste. We’re not talking about the renewable gas coming out of out of landfills, we’re talking about solid waste. I think it’s…
Bill Smith 1:49
Paul Rodden 1:50
Really, really awesome, really amazing. But you’re kind of before we really dive into that. Can you give us kind of some of your background you know, what, where did you start what led you to excel plus what led you to founding and then why plasma gasification as your choice?
Bill Smith 2:07
Well, I started XcelPlus as a specialty chemicals and lubricants company. And then we got involved in ethanol with a technology to convert fuel injected cars over to run on E 85. When that came out, and then 2005 Katrina hit. And I was already doing research into gasification which, in Germany in the 1920s. They gasified coal ran into what’s called a Fischer–Tropsch system and produce diesel fuel, which is how they fuel their war machine. The technology came to Texas a&m university, they reverse engineered it all. But at that time, it was actually cheaper to produce fuels from petroleum. Because it was below 35 bucks a barrel. So Katrina hits and I took a lot of research and began to look for a way to take the trees, even the houses, crush them up, grind them up, and feed them through basically a Fischer–Tropsch system to produce fuel, synthetic diesel fuel synthetic jet fuels, or powering a big generators to get a place back on the grid quicker found the Fischer–Tropsch systems, no problem, but I could not find a gasifier that was A) portable, and B) wood process enough waste, because when you’re looking at destruction of cities and states, in a way, you’re talking about massive amounts of waste. And as we know, Katrina took it went 20 days, 30 days to get back on its feet, it took months and months. And some of it’s still in destruction today. And then we’ve had hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Florida, tornadoes, but again, I could not find a gasifier and found steam reformers and different types. It seemed like plasma was the best way to disassociate the molecules and waste. So if you take a tree, or plastics or tires, you have carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, different elements that combine to form a tree, a tire, whatever. And if you disassociate those molecules, you get atoms. You take those atoms or recombine them into what sin gases, which is carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and you have a fuel little run and generators, cars, whatever. So again, I couldn’t find the gasifiers but, and we shut the company down at that time. And in 2017, I’m in California, I set up a company. I give out two business cards and this guy calls me and goes, why do I have your card? I don’t know..why do I have your card? I’m like, I don’t know who the hell are you? He said my name is Christian Juvan. I said so what he said Google me. He’s the grandfather of plasma physics. Oh, wow. And they had built a company around a plasma gasifier. So needless to say, I spent a lot of time with this guy. Really, really interesting guy and found out what happened to their company, which was management. And his biggest claim was he held a bunch of patents, one of those being a special plasma torch, which was cheaper and everybody else’s on the market, more energy efficient than anybody else’s on the market. So we couldn’t restructure their company in 2017. In 2020, we reactivated XcelPlus. And we entered into a swap agreement to acquire their patents and assets and men know how I wanted like 40,000 files from their company.
Paul Rodden 5:33
Bill Smith 5:33
So in February, we hired an engineering firm because there were a few design issues in their gasifier. Christian is an great physicist, but he’s not an engineer. So the engineers worked out the bugs that the gasifier had, we went from 25 tonnes a day to 50 tonnes a day. And we output a very clean sin gas, which means in our gasifier, we’re capable of injecting water, paints, solid sludges. And we can go through what’s called a water phase shift, which means we can bump up the hydrogen levels. So we can run that through a hydrogen processor called pressure swing absorption system. And we can extract the clean hydrogen. And I know that one of the things that everybody looks at, oh, it’s expensive, but when you look at hydrogen production day from Singas, I mean, from natural gas from electrolysis and look at ours thing we have going as we get a bunch of tax subsidies, and federal subsidies, and we can bring hydrogen production at below the average cost of hydrogen today, anywhere else. So one of our signs is to put take garbage landfills across country and build a Hydrogen Highway. So that’s a nutshell shot of what we’re doing.
Paul Rodden 6:46
That’s That’s great. I mean, it’s it’s great to know that that that technology is being used in this way, but there’s also just that bigger picture of cleaning up landfills.
Bill Smith 6:57
Paul Rodden 6:58
I mean, it’s that really is the probably the most amazing part of this is I’m a big hydrogen supporter, obviously. But to know that you’re also cleaning up just solid waste is amazing.
Bill Smith 7:14
To us a landfill is an oil well.
Paul Rodden 7:16
Bill Smith 7:17
It just sticking out of the ground versus in the ground. And we literally have mapped out all the landfills in the state of Texas. And nationally, they’re like 10,000 closed landfill. The EPA says it’s not our matter if a landfill will leak. It’s a matter of when so this leach stage is gonna start leaking into groundwater somewhere in time. So that’s one of the things we looked at as a part of our businesses. Uncapping a landfill, Take the garbage out, feed it to our gasifiers, we shred it first, and down about two inches. It’s augered into our gasifiers, and within 15 minutes for gasifier full. Everything at the top is already being taken out as an ash. We don’t presort to waste metals, ground up, glasses ground up, and we separate the waste stream pulling out a new metals or glasses, then the ash can actually go to cement companies as a component. Cement manufacturing. So there’s literally almost nothing goes to waste.
Paul Rodden 8:17
Do you have any carbon black as a byproduct?
Bill Smith 8:20
We get some carbon black. But our goal is to turn this into well actually, to absorb all the energy out of the waste. It’s kind of what we’re doing. There is a fly ash more than anything. If we did a lot of tires. Yes, we have a lot of carbon black, which is a commodity as well.
Paul Rodden 8:36
Right. Right. Curious about that. I had covered it a couple of times on some podcasts talking about the carbon black and one of the latest I was covering was some methane pyrolysis companies using this technology. But one of them was saying that they’re the the carbon black that they’re able to produce is so clean that that you know they’re making the graphene sheets and even nanotubes out of that carbon black and was wondering if that was one of the models that you were looking at, or like you said, just taking the ash and selling that to cement companies.
Bill Smith 9:10
So a lot of landfills down now segregate their waste. If they’re doing tires, they usually have a big tire pile. So we could put a gas fire at a tire pile and just feed it tires every day of the week. But in the garbage, you know, we’re getting everything from diapers to orange peels to paper towels to whatever. And that homogenous mix of waste is not a consistent stream and to sort waste on the front end. Typical waste stream sortor an 18 to $30 million. So since we chop everything up and feeding the gasifier, our our front end cost is a lot lower than and I say this because we’re pricing out a project for a military base in Florida. And before we came along their front end sorting was 18 million bucks. Wow because gasifier they are using would only handle very certain types of waste. So I want to ask that you’re like, Oh, we can do recycling. But where do you send the plastics today? Yeah, nobody wants it. They don’t want the diapers. They don’t want orange peels. So the real more efficient way other than landfill and doing this to gasify it all and turn it into, we can make clean hydrogen, we can make synthetic diesel fuels, jet fuels. gasolines, ethanol’s. And then obviously we can produce power, which when we started this, we found organic Rankine cycle in Florida. And we’re excited we can make five megawatts, which is a lot. Yeah, for a gasifier, but we went to the mining disrupt show in Miami. And these guys are like, Yeah, we need 50 megawatts. We need 100 megawatts. Holy crap. So we found that by building a pod of our gasifiers, we can power a GE turbine that puts out about 30 to 37 megawatts. We could put on some organic Rankine cycles and put out 40 to 50 megawatts. We can now build a pod that will power 100 megawatt GE turbine plus another 50 of ORC’s, and now we can put out 150 megawatts from garbage. Wow. We’re also looking at products where we have tires, telephone poles railroad ties, but another big market is waste coal, right with waste coal, their problem is the when it rains, water is going in pollutes rivers, and we can take that waste coal and use as an energy source and produce megawatts one project will again it will take 300 gasifiers, 20 years to get rid of three piles of coal. Wow. So these crypto miners are like, we’ll take the power. Yeah, so we have you know, these energy hogs willing to come in and just hook right up, we’re off the grid. So we hook them right into our power supply. And we can power mining rigs without taking energy away from homes or businesses. So it’s a totally off the grid system. Plus, we can still feed the excess onto a grid.
Paul Rodden 12:17
You know, that’s a really, really interesting point is that you aren’t part of the grid, you are separate from that you can use so many different sources to fuel turbines everything and what you talked about specifically was the crypto mining, which is so unbelievably energy intensive. That now you can get crazy off the grid.
Bill Smith 12:39
Well, China’s kicking the crypto miners out, guess where they’re all coming, Texas. But when they went into Kazakhstan, it only took them a few weeks to absorb all of the excess energy. So they literally sucked up all the extra energy of a country. So now they’re coming to Texas. Yes, we have extra wind, we have extra solar. That’s intermittent power. Right, our powers 24/7 365. Right. We’re not depending on an outside source because it takes very little energy to run our gasifiers. So we’re energy sufficient. expending enough energy to run big gen sets off a very little consumption of our sin gas. But, you know, we came here talking about hydrogen. And this is a field that I’ve been intrigued by for years. And, you know, electrolysis is kind of cool. And I’ve looked at a lot of electrolysis technologies, right. But when we started looking at using sin gas as a source, and being subsidized federally, statewise, then we we can bring in a very cheap hydrogen, right? Because if you’re going to have a Hydrogen Highway, or Cummins is built engines for rail systems now, then we’ll run on hydrogen. The problem is, where do you get the hydrogen from?
Paul Rodden 14:04
Right infrastructure is just a that’s that’s one of the hiccups.
Bill Smith 14:08
Guess what every state in the United States has garbage landfills. So we can literally take to go from the East Coast to West Coast and a hydrogen car it would take about 10 gasifiers across well 10 landfills across the country to literally build a Hydrogen Highway. we’d eat we don’t need to pump it through the pipelines. Because we’re producing a close enough to the gas stations that literally can tank it by truck, drop off the tanks and you pop in and fill up your hydrogen car. The only state with hydrogen is what? California and they don’t have a lot of stations. Right? So our goal is to mention stretches across the nation to where now all these Californians can be freed from California and can go exploring. And the same thing we’re railroads so we can build a railroad support system of hydrogen with all the landfills. Like I said, there are 400 closed in Texas, another 42 that are within 15 years and less a closing, that are all scrambling on how can we stay open? And the problem is regulations today. Don’t really permit them. Once your full close it and go on. Yeah, Tennessee right now is freaking out because it just happens to be a perfect storm or almost all of their landfills are hitting that fill date at the same time. And the problem is they can’t get permitting to even open new landfills. So we can go into a landfill. We can take their incoming capacity, and it never go in the landfill. And then we can add gasifiers and we can actually drain the landfills of processing garbage.
Paul Rodden 15:50
You actually brought up something that’s I haven’t come across yet. And that’s you know, everyone is guessing everyone is addressing the the transportation in the in terms of trucking. And you’re right, I mean rail. Cummins is has has their new engine out Europe is big on on hydrogen rail road is addressing it here in the States. And it’s great to hear that that is a primary focus for you. I think that’s a great way to build out infrastructure in the US is to focus on rail. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing it.
Bill Smith 16:24
Yeah, that’s because we need to go to clean energy sources. So you either have to go to synthetic fuels, or you have to go to hydrogen. So to me, the synthetic fuels are the transition fuels. First adventure one, but hydrogen.
Paul Rodden 16:41
And when you say synthetic fuels, you’re talking about the Fischer–Tropsch fuels,
Bill Smith 16:44
Fischer–Tropsch, fuels. Yeah.
Paul Rodden 16:45
Which I do like those too.
Bill Smith 16:48
If you look at the Fischer tropsch system, you know what an oxygen concentrator is? Showing you see people going around with these things that they used to breathe oxygen. Yeah, yeah, I was living off one for a while here recently.
Paul Rodden 17:02
Glad you are better by the way..
Bill Smith 17:03
Yeah, this is a portable one. This is what’s called a pressure swing absorption system. It sucks air in, it compresses it, and then it puts into these chamber that has a catalyst in it, this catalyst absorbs the nitrogen, and lets the oxygen come out to the breathing part. And then this thing over which at that point, it’s emptying the nitrogen out of the containment centers in the in the catalyst. So the same sciences, we can feed sin gases in here. And we can pull out hydrogen in a Fischer tropsch system, we change the catalyst, and the catalyst determines the fuel.
Paul Rodden 17:47
Bill Smith 17:47
So the the German technology use cobalt and iron ore. So when you pass sin gas through cobalt and iron ore, outcomes, diesel fuel that if you change the catalysts to a, I can’t say the compound because it’s part of what we’re gonna do. But it has a copper compound. If we pass that same sin gas through a Fischer–Tropsch with a compound compound in it, we get ethanol. It was patented in 1901. And we were trying to make drinking alcohol but it tastes so bad. The car doesn’t care what it tastes like. Right? So we can develop fuels that are very, almost no high carbon content for jet engines, turbines, cars, trucks. And that gives the World time to switch more into the hydrogen mode. And I believe that once hydrogen becomes readily available, that will be the fuel of our future. I’m sure you’ve already told everybody. It’s not like the Hindenburg.
Paul Rodden 18:51
Yes, it is… It is not like the Hindenburg that those days are long gone.
Bill Smith 18:56
Well, I told you guys, we were all the hydrates, please. No, no. Go back and read it. Study it. The skin of the Hindenburg was coated with what we use as rocket fuel today. Yeah. And when that spark hits the skin that erupted that lit to hydrogen, and if you look at the video, the hydrogen flame was shortlived, poof, gone. But that skin is what was burning. Right aluminum oxide in it. Yeah, rocket fuel.
Paul Rodden 19:24
It’s it is much, much safer today by a longshot kind of moving on pass that you had talked a little bit about some of your economics on your system. What is your current price point right now?
Bill Smith 19:39
It’ll be under under two bucks a kilogram.
Paul Rodden 19:42
Okay. So you’re, you’re under that $2 mark that everyone’s targeting.
Bill Smith 19:47
Right. So we’ll be under natural gas to produce hydrogen but and then even under if you look at the cost of solar or wind powered, you know, how much did it cost to build that system? Right? We build several gasifiers the price of a big wind turbine or solar field and we fit in a footprint… our gasifiers are 10 foot by 10 foot. That’s amazing. So, you know, we have a very small footprint,
Paul Rodden 20:13
Bill Smith 20:14
You know, I think I was doing comparisons on like a, say, a 50 megawatt solar field that takes acres and acres and acres. And we can do the same 50 megawatts and about an acre acre and a half.
Paul Rodden 20:26
But also, I mean, I don’t hate on renewable fuels. But I think no, people don’t necessarily pay enough attention to the total carbon footprint that those have got the lifecycle. And it seems to me that methane pyrolysis, the plasma gasification, the modular systems that you use, and some of the others have overall smaller carbon footprint, especially when you’re taking something that is a waste product, and making hydrogen and other solids out of it without any kind of co2 release. So that ends up being more carbon, neutral, and carbon negative.
Unknown Speaker 21:01
If you look at methane, you guys are using landfill gas. When you start building landfill, methane production is climbing, climbing. And I believe the numbers that clients were about seven years, by then the bacterium that are isolated in the bottom of the landfill, begin to die off. And then after a while that methane production drops off. So there is lifespan of methane production in a landfill. So we don’t care about the methane, we can burn that same methane in our gas fires turn it into fuel. But we can take the garbage, which means we’re going to eliminate the methane. There was an article I just shared with somebody about this methane plume in Pakistan, where they don’t have landfill management. And in a lot of these underdeveloped countries, it’s an issue. Right? So same thing is we could go into any country. One of our caveat is, if I want to build a 500 megawatt, I mean, a 500 ton a day gasifier, you spent a couple of years in permitting, you’re gonna spend a couple of years building this machine, we’re building these on an assembly line. So when they come up to where we lay it on a trailer, ship it to wherever it goes by ship anywhere in the world. And within a couple of days, that machine is set up and ready to process garbage.
Paul Rodden 22:12
So in a 10 by 10, that can…
Bill Smith 22:15
peanuts… exactly. So we can put them on top of a ship, place shipping containers, we can ship them down the highway here and anywhere in the country, we ship along a 40 foot container that carries a couple extra parts. But when they’re done, and they empty out the parts, that becomes the control room for the whole system. So even everything gets used to its nth degree. So we’re not wasting things.
Paul Rodden 22:39
Seems like even places like places in Asia like Japan, South Korea could really benefit from this where space is at an absolute premium. And on top of that their thirst for hydrogen is also one of the top in the world. It seems like it would be a great market for you too
Bill Smith 22:56
one consistent the world has is garbage. Right? No matter where you go in the world, there’s garbage. And what’s the old adage one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? This is it. That’s us.
Paul Rodden 23:09
So moving on just a little bit. Would you mind talking about how you identify the potential landfills for your energy generation? Like, is it is it a size thing is more about location? Is there any kind of metric that you use or don’t use to discount certain locations?
Bill Smith 23:25
So we bought a database of every landfill in United States, we mapped out because the products we’re looking at Texas, PA, West Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio and a few other states already. And we just map them out to where is the landfill? Now there is a report that says there’s like another bunch of landfills that go back to like the 60s and all where they didn’t map landfills, they just dumped the garbage into a hole kind of covered up. So in this analysis, our first look is when these crypto miners come to us and they’re starting to we look at landfills around where they want to build that. And they become their fuel source. Yeah. And most landfills will have several million tons of garbage, you know, before it’s finally capped off and closed. So we have several years of waste that we can harvest for energy production. Of course now I know it won’t. What’s happening is landfills are consolidating as we’re closing all these landfills. The new landfills cover 300 600 acres, and they have 10s of millions of tons of cases, hundreds of millions of tons of garbage in them. So we’re talking about lifetimes of waste that can be processed. And with a growing population, you have a growing waste problem. So fuel source isn’t going away.
Paul Rodden 24:51
No, it’s not gonna anywhere. And like you said, there’s always going to be waste. Whether it’s it seems to me that doesn’t really matter whether it’s coming from a plastic or a paper or anything, you’re able to tie that exactly the whole plastic straws to paper straws, it doesn’t matter.
Bill Smith 25:10
It’s all BTU’s. The gasifier has sensors all the way down. So we can monitor the heat zones in the pyrolysis chamber. And we have augers that take waste out, we have augers that bringing in. So we have a very controlled system. If you look at some of these big ones, they pick up the garbage, they just drop it in and let it start burning, we’re actually controling the whole pyrolysis system from the time it enters till the time it exits. And that’s something else that we haven’t seen anybody else has. So we have a very controlled system to work with.
Paul Rodden 25:46
That’s great. So one, one final question. How much of a role do you envision hydrogen playing out in the future energy needs globally?
Bill Smith 25:57
Oh, I believe it’s going to be the future energy source. The biggest thing is a controlling the flame rate of hydrogen if you’re going to combust it, and you can retard the flame rate of hydrogen. So if you look at gasoline, the other components beside hydrogen, which is what we burn, are controlling how fast hydrogen burns. And if you look at different fuels, diesel fuel, gasoline, so on the carbon and stuff controls the flame rate of hydrogen. So if we remove that, and we start going more to fuel cells, which is really a more efficient system, that internal combustion engine, I believe that there’s no reason to eventually have everything running off of hydrogen, and building, if we have these fueling sources that every landfill across the nation, there won’t be a hydrogen shortage either. We just have to liberate it from the waste.
Paul Rodden 26:48
Do you in your mind? Do you see one method? I know you kind of biased about this, but one method to really supplant all the other methods of creating hydrogen or is this more do you see it more of an all hands on deck? Just?
Bill Smith 27:04
Yeah, I’ve never, I’ve never seen a system that’s going to answer we need solar, we need wind, we need hydrogen we need gasification is a technology I’m looking to bring in from Germany, that is a small unit fit on the back of a truck and literally can throw tires and plastics and, and it turns it straight into diesel fuel, and also produces a sin gas. And we’re looking to mount these on ships to go out and clean up the garbage patch. But then also go into some of these underdeveloped countries, offload this equipment and say, Listen, don’t throw the plastic garbage in the rivers. Bring in here and we will turn it into energy. So to me, that’s just another tool to help clean up the world, ridding the world of waste. And I believe waste is going to be one of the future energy sources because it’s untapped.
Paul Rodden 27:54
No one really thinks about it as an energy source. They think of it as stinky garbage, stinky garbage.
Bill Smith 28:00
Why would you please haul it away?
Paul Rodden 28:02
Just take it away,
Bill Smith 28:03
drop it in my neighborhood. I’ve always looked at landfills is oil wells now. And we just needed the technology to harvest them. And now we have it.
Paul Rodden 28:13
That’s incredible. Well, thank you so much for your time today.
Bill Smith 28:16
Paul Rodden 28:17
I think I think the work that you’re doing is phenomenal. And I want to see just huge success coming from from what you’re doing. We need to keep in touch. I want to know yes or no how great this is going for you in the future. It’s great that you’re able to produce at scale and get it going. I love it. If any of our listeners want to know more about XcelPlus, where can they go?
Bill Smith 28:43
Our website is XcelPlusINT.com. That’s xcelplusint.com. And we’re traded on the OTC markets right now. So we’re looking to move up the ladder with that as well.
Paul Rodden 28:57
Go for it
Bill Smith 28:58
going. Everybody told me I can’t I’m like why not? You can’t, why not? So if you don’t have a good answer as to why not I’m gonna do it anyway.
Paul Rodden 29:07
Go for it.
Paul Rodden 29:07
Bill Smith 29:09
All right, brother.
Bill Smith 29:10
All right. I appreciate it. Everyone. Thank you so much for listening today. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about today’s episode, come visit me at my website at thehydrogenpodcast.com. And let me know I would really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe. I’ll talk to you later. Hey, this is Paul. I hope you’d like this podcast. If you did want to hear more. I’d appreciate it if you would either Subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at www.thehydrogenpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.