In conversation with Haytham Sayah, Executive MBA, 2016, about his new company Cryocollect – From Waste to Energy. How to do a project in 1 year and bring it in on budget!
Haytham, things have been very busy for you since you got your MBA. You designed a low-cost system to liquefy biofuel (Biomethane) made from organic waste to facilitate transportation. Where is your main source of material?
The project “Méthabraye” is made up of a group of farms located northwest of the Loir-et-Cher region. It includes 34 Farmers representing 17 farms in the area. The Farmers collect most of the organic waste from their farms, totaling about 29 500 tons of animal waste per year.
Fig1: Site of Méthabraye
How do you create Biogas from organic waste?
Decomposition of organic matter such as food or animal waste in an anaerobic environment (an environment absent of oxygen) produces Biogas. This decomposition is a natural waste to energy form. This process produces a gas called Biogas, which contains mostly Methane and CO2. We build digesters to replicate the necessary conditions for this reaction to take place (similar to a stomach at 37 °C).
How do you remove CO2? How can this be used for heating and electricity?
Once the biogas is produced, we separate the Methane from the other gases such as CO2 using Pressure Swing Adsorption which works on a molecular level to capture the CO2 molecules and leave the Methane. After this process, the Biomethane can be burned to generate energy for heating or producing electricity.
Each cubic meter (1 m3) of biogas contains the equivalent of 6-9 kWh of heat or 2 kWh of electricity enough to power a 100 W light bulb for 20 hours.
Why do you need to liquefy the Biomethane, and how do you do it?
Usually, Biogas factories are constructed next to the gas grid. In this way, we can produce and inject the Biomethane directly on the grid. The Gas grid is well developed in France, but it is not as developed everywhere. Our Company developed the liquefaction process. It is a process designed for all the Biogas production sites that are far from the grid and/or the usage of the gas is far from the production. To economically transport the produced Biomethane we liquify it to reduce its volume and hence the number of shipments. The liquefaction process reduces the gas volume by a ratio of 1/600. This reduction means 1 tank of liquid Biomethane is the equivalate of 600 tanks of gas Biomethane.
This solution is ideal for countries where there’s no gas grid and for sites which are far from the gas grid. The liquefaction process will open the door for a whole new market because we can now have biogas projects where we don’t have a grid.
When we cool the gas to extremely low temperatures, the gas is liquefied. Our process is capable of cooling the Biomethane down to -120 °C
Fig 2: Filling the tank truck with Liquid Biomethane
What is the difference between your product and your competitors?
We designed our system to operate with materials used in mass production. This type of operation allowed us to reduce the production cost dramatically and increase the reliability of the system. Also, our innovative design is more efficient; we consume at least 35% less energy than the competition!
Who is buying this fuel from you at the moment?
Several companies like GRDF, Gaz de Bordeau, and GRT Gaz purchase from us. What makes the production so interesting at the moment, though, is that the government subsidizes the production. The government guarantees a certain selling price for 15 years, which allows the market to develop.
Normally a project like this takes several years, yet you did it in one. What methods did you use to create such a focused mindset to keep the project on target?
Going from an idea to a prototype can take several years, especially on an industrial level. To accelerate this process, we adopted an agile method. We assembled a highly qualified team that used to work together. We structured and dissected the project into small tasks and tried to use parallelized tasks as much as possible. We debriefed daily for 15 mins and defined the tasks to finish by the next day. In this way, we solved all the issues in less than 24 hours. Management was on the lookout and very reactive, and this helped a lot.
What did you learn from working under such stressful conditions? Did you find new insights/strengths? Were there failures along the way? What would your advice be to others?
I learned a lot from this experience on a technical, managerial, and personal level. A strong team relationship is extremely important in any project. A strong team can make anything happen.
We faced a lot of failures and difficulties that pushed us at certain points to almost give up. Technical knowledge is very important, but our ability to pivot and the team spirit and stability were crucial to our success.
My advice is to pay very close attention to the team coherence and mindset and focus on being structured and very disciplined in order to complete tasks in as short a time as possible.
Haytham, will you be hiring people for more projects next year?
We are currently hiring people with a technical focus specialized in the energy and process sector.