Barnesville trash processor explodes; no one hurt

hduncan@macon.comApril 2, 2013 

A building where garbage is cooked into fuel exploded Tuesday morning in Barnesville. No one was harmed.

Seaborn Crosby, who owns the patent for the technology being used by the Lamar County Regional Solid Waste Authority, was one of two people fleeing the building when the explosion caused part of a hopper to blow through the roof into the air.

“It felt like a sonic boom,” said Crosby, whose company Paradigm Technologies is based in Macon.

Crosby’s company has been partnering for more than two years with the authority on developing the technology, which superheats shredded garbage to turn it into various liquid and vapor fuels such as propane and butane.

Crosby said the explosion was caused by a contractor testing the hopper equipment where the garbage is deposited before it enters the heating system. The contractor skipped a step in the process that involved purging leftover gas before conducting a pressure test. Crosby said when he walked in and saw what the contractor was doing, he asked whether the gas had been purged first. When the man didn’t answer, Crosby told him they needed to evacuate. Seconds later, the explosion occurred, he said.

The contractor tripped and fell but was shielded by a forklift, Crosby said.

Crosby said the contractor’s company has taken responsibility for the accident and has said it would cover the costs. He declined to name the Savannah-based company.

Crosby said the hopper, a bay of the building, the roof and some siding will need to be replaced, but other equipment appears does not seem to be damaged.

Crosby said Lamar County and the Solid Waste Authority are preparing to issue bonds in September to bring the pyrolisys process up to commercial scale, with a goal of keeping 80 percent of the county’s waste out of the authority’s Cedar Grove Landfill.

He said he doesn’t think the explosion will affect the overall project. But he added, “We’re going to need to remove some human error capability from the process.”

To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

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