Making fuel from trash: Innovative MSU technology put to use in new Missouri facility

February 18, 2022

Leaders from Circular SynTech and New Madrid, Missouri local government celebrate the groundbreaking of the company’s new facility that uses technology developed by Mississippi State researchers to create liquid fuels from solid waste. (Submitted photo)
Bio Fuel research in Swalm–Prashant R. Daggolu and Mark White (photo by Megan Bean / © Mississippi State University)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A novel technology developed at Mississippi State University will be used in a new industrial facility that is turning solid waste into liquid fuels.

Circular SynTech broke ground Friday [Feb. 18] on its new waste-to-renewable-chemicals production facility in New Madrid, Missouri. The company uses a patented process developed by researchers in MSU’s Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering.

Mark White, director emeritus of the school, worked with MSU’s Office of Technology Management to license the technology to Circular SynTech. In addition to White, the waste conversion method was co-invented by former post-doctoral associate Shetian Liu, 2012 MSU chemical engineering doctoral graduate Samantha A. Ranaweera, and the late William P. Henry, a former faculty member in the Department of Chemistry.

The new industry in Southeast Missouri, located along the Mississippi River, will collect solid waste from major population centers and use White’s method to turn synthetic gases from the waste into liquid fuels, providing a cleaner energy source at an industrial scale.

“This groundbreaking marks another milestone in getting a technology with tremendous societal benefit to the marketplace,” said MSU Office of Technology Management Director Jeremy Clay. “Dr. White has worked for years to develop, patent and ultimately license this technology for commercial use. It is an exciting accomplishment for everyone involved in this research, Circular SynTech, and the many people that will benefit from this new facility.”

White served as director of the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering from 2006-2010 and as research professor at MSU’s Energy Institute from 2010-2012 before retiring. Prior to joining MSU, he was a professor of chemical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The technology developed by White uses cobalt and/or molybdenum as a catalyst for converting synthetic gases produced by waste such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid fuels.

“Strong incentives now exist for replacing some current fuel technologies used in the energy industries with fuels derived from renewable resources such as wood and certain waste streams,” White said. “We are happy to play a role in solving one problem among the many problems facing our culture in the 21st century.”

Circular SynTech plans to eventually expand the Missouri facility and develop similar sites across the country. For more information, visit www.circularsyntech.com/cst-new-madrid.

MSU’s Office of Technology Management works to assess, protect and manage the intellectual property (IP) developed by MSU faculty, staff and students. For more information, visit www.otm.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.