Cutting through metal is a task that few select fuels can really accomplish well. Only a handful of industrial gases can achieve the high temperatures needed in metal cutting applications, such as pure acetylene (C2H2). The problem with pure acetylene is that it is expensive, inherently unstable and pools if there is a leak.
Metal cutting fuel is not typically associated with the renewable or alternative fuels industry, but one Tampa-area company, MagneGas, traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol MNGA, has patented a process that produces a safer and faster cutting fuel from renewable liquids. The results are giving pure acetylene a run for its money due to its safe attributes, faster cutting speed, and higher cutting temperatures. Industries such as energy utilities, construction, demolition, metal fabrication, firefighting and other first responders, have really taken notice.
High-profile metalworking jobs such as major bridge building and repairs for the Florida Department of Transportation, demolition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and a historic pier demolition/rebuild project in St. Petersburg, Florida, are putting MagneGas on the map, and the company says its fuel is in use at three of the five largest utility companies in the country. In addition, more than 15 distribution partners have been added up and down the East Coast, Nevada, California and Mexico to deliver the fuel to an ever-growing list of clients.
Many emergency management teams, including the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) have begun using MagneGas2 for metal cutting in rescue operations. Working closely with these teams enabled the company to develop its patented MagneTote, an all-in-one cutting tool that enables responders to replace multiple metal cutting tools in their inventory.
The company is also building its first commercially sold gasification unit in the U.S. for a distributor in the Texas/Louisiana market. This unit gives the distributor the ability to make and bottle MagneGas2 on-site, generating royalties for MagneGas on each cubic foot of gas produced.
The company attributes the increasing demand for its fuel as a direct result of its sales penetration into key vertical market segments. “We have experienced substantial growth, and in our new facility we have the opportunity to double production,” says Ermanno Santilli, CEO of MagneGas. In 2015, the company managed to increase revenue by 136 percent.
Not only is MagneGas2 the only renewable cutting fuel on the market, according to Santilli, it is also the only cutting fuel produced entirely in the U.S. Acetylene is made from calcium carbide, which is imported primarily from China and other countries. Drawbacks of using acetylene include its high toxicity and inherent instability. MagneGas2 burns about 40 percent hotter than acetylene, which gives users a cleaner cut with less slag and a narrower kerf (the slit made by cutting), according to the company.
The technology is based on flowing the target liquid waste though a submerged electric arc between two electrodes. The arc decomposes the liquid’s molecules into atoms and forms a plasma arc around the tips of the electrodes at about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The Plasma Arc Flow moves this plasma away from the electrodes and controls the formation of MagneGas, a hydrogen-based gaseous fuel that rises to the surface for collection,” explains Santilli, “The liquid feedstocks MagneGas uses in its process are readily available and renewable and include soybean oil and other vegetable oils.”
“MagneGas fuel has a variety of uses from metal cutting and co-combustion to cooking.” Santilli says. “Our gas can be a complete reset for the metal cutting industry as a safer replacement for acetylene, the current industry standard.” The gas produced for the metalworking industry (MagneGas2) is compressed, bottled into cylinders, and sold through its growing network of distributors. The company reports that its MagneGas2 consistently receives positive feedback from end users for its advantages over acetylene.
“Industries ranging from demolition companies, utility companies, first responders and fabricators have been praising and ordering MagneGas2 because of its proven faster cutting speed, demonstrated safety attributes, ecofriendly aspects, smaller heat affected zone and lower cost,” the company states in a press release.
Not only can its patented process gasify wastes, it also can sterilize them. Initial testing at an Indiana pig farm last year confirmed that it can process liquid manure wastes into sterilized biosolids for agricultural use. The company hopes to expand this testing through a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant later this year, with the goal of becoming a USDA “Best Practice” for farmers currently using lagoons to treat their manure waste stream.
Cutting fuel and sterilization aren’t the only areas where MagneGas is making inroads. In December 2015, MagneGas announced the successful co-combustion of a specifically engineered fuel with coal flue gas. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) all were reduced during the combustion, while temperatures increased by more than 200 percent. Based on these results, the company filed provisional patents related to proprietary characteristics of this fuel and application.
“We are very excited about our co-combustion technology and it is in the advanced stages of testing with a national utility company,” Santilli says. “So far we are seeing that MagneGas, in combination with specific co-combustion technology, can help significantly increase the efficiency of burning coal flue smoke as well as substantially reduce emissions.”
He continues, “When you stop to consider that the world still produces about 45 percent of its electric power from coal, the ability to burn it more efficiently while producing fewer emissions appears to be a very big deal.”
“So far we are seeing that MagneGas, in combination with specific co-combustion technology, can help significantly increase the efficiency of burning coal flue smoke as well as substantially reduce emissions.”
– Ermanno Santilli
MagneGas recently moved to its new 18,000 square-foot headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. The facility is centrally located within an industrial area outside of Tampa. It has close proximity to existing and potential customers and is within easy access to major highways. The company says the additional space will provide increased space for MagneGas2 production, allow room for future growth, and provides an increased area for research and development.
Over the next 90 days, the company plans to bring three gas production units online, more than doubling its current capacity. These units will operate in several shifts, which the company says will allow it to finally meet existing demand and accommodate future sales growth.
As of press time, the company plans to host a grand opening and customer appreciation day on June 15. As Santilli puts it, “Our customers and investors are our lifeblood, so in addition to showing them the increased production capabilities at our new facility,
we wanted to say thank you as well for their loyalty.”