Leaders of a pioneering facility in southeast Akron were hot to install a huge piece of key equipment.
Monday, they did just that at the under-construction Vadxx Energy LLC plant.
Actually, two cranes did much of the work to install an 80-foot-long, 175,000-pound kiln. It will be used to melt tons of scrap plastic every day, helping turn the material into liquid fuel at the Vadxx plant.
â€œThis is so outside the norm,â€ said Lars Traner of Schenker Inc., the freight company that oversaw shipping of the German-made equipment to the Port of Cleveland late last year.
Traner is impressed with the size of the custom-built steel kiln â€” it is 12 feet high and from the outside looks like an enormous pipe â€” and its unusual purpose: recycling otherwise unrecyclable plastic.
At least initially, the plastic that will be melted at the $20 million facility â€” at Kelly Avenue and East Waterloo Road â€” will be â€œpost-industrialâ€ waste. Thatâ€™s scrap plastic left over from manufacturing operations, not plastic that individuals throw in the trash.
The facility will be Vadxxâ€™s first. It will transform the melted plastic, using a patent-pending process, into diesel fuel.
â€œOnce we have got this plant working, our opportunities for expansion will improve,â€ said Tony Colello, one of the first managers hired for the Akron operation. â€œItâ€™s like any new technology: Prove it and they will build it.â€
Vadxx officials have stressed that they want the Akron operation to become the start of a U.S., or even global, expansion for the Northeast Ohio company, following several years of research and development. Vadxx has operated a pilot plant for several years in downtown Akron.
The massive kiln, along with a combustion chamber, were installed Monday as part of the plan to get the facility operational by June, said Russell Cooper, Vadxxâ€™s vice president of supply and marketing. The plant, which will employ about 18, should be at capacity â€” 60 tons of waste plastic daily â€” by late this year.
The waste-to-energy industry, still emerging in the United States, is much further along in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. So itâ€™s no surprise that Vadxx partner Rockwell Automation turned to Europe, specifically Germany, to find a manufacturer of the kiln and combustion chamber.
Rockwell Automation designed and is overseeing construction of the plant.
Both the kiln and the combustion chamber arrived in Cleveland in mid-December, after being shipped from Antwerp, Belgium. They were loaded onto trucks and arrived in Akron over the weekend.
Two escort cars and a police cruiser accompanied the oversize freight on its trip along Interstate 77. Schenker also arranged for transportation to Akron.
The Vadxx facility is on former city-owned land next to a business/industrial park. EPA officials say the plant will be a minor pollution emitter.
The nearly clear, odorless emissions from the plant will be no more than what would be generated by a buildingâ€™s boiler, Vadxx officials have said.