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Echogen: Turning smokestacks into power plants

Picture the belching smokestack of a steel mill releasing heat waste into the air. Harnessing and converting that into usable energy is becoming a reality, thanks to the new Thermafficient Waste Heat Recovery Engine developed by Akron’s Echogen Power Systems.
Echogen views the engine as a game changer for steel mills, power companies and other industries that require a lot of electricity.

Echogen’s first engine, which can produce 250 kilowatts of electricity from a given heat source, was built in Lebanon, Ohio, and is in final testing stage at American Electric Power’s research center in Columbus.

“We’re moving it to another facility, this time in Akron, for a long-term endurance trial in a true industrial setting,” explains Mark Terzola, Echogen’s chief operating officer.

Echogen is currently building a much stronger engine, able to produce six to eight mega watts of electricity, according to Terzola. “We’re in late-term negotiations with potential industrial partners who need this kind of engine,” he says.

Echogen recently caught the eye of the Dresser-Rand Group, Inc., of Houston, which makes rotating industrial equipment. Dresser-Rand has invested $10 million in Echogen in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the company and will provide turbines and other parts for Echogen’s future engines.

“Dresser-Rand is the exclusive licensee for our engines to the oil and gas industry,” Terzola notes. Echogen also plans to manufacture smaller engines for companies that produce less heat waste, such as ceramics companies and glass makers.

On another front, California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory also contacted Echogen. Berkeley Lab hopes to be the first in the world to produce electricity from the earth’s heat using hydrogen and to store some of it underground, where it won’t contribute to climate change. Echogen is designing a special turbine for the project, according to Terzola. The project, which will unfold over about three years, has received $5 million of underwriting from the Department of Energy. EchoGen has received additional support from JumpStart and the Ohio Third Frontier.

““We’re only at the tip of the iceberg for this technology,” Terzola explains. “We have an outstanding team of engineers we’ve recruited from world-class organizations, and the technology we’re working with has tremendous future opportunity.”

Echogen currently has 25 employees and plans to have nearly 50 by the end of 2012.

“The early capital we received through the Ohio Third Frontier enabled us to leverage it for immediate growth that provided us with a foundation for long-term success,” he notes.

Source:  Mark Terzola, Echogen Power Systems
Writer:  Lynne Meyer
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