Kris Skrinak is CEO of adaptiveARC – a gasification company which creates syngas from waste which can then be combusted to create energy. Mr Skrinak spoke on 13th July 2011 at the Clean Energy Finance & Investment Summit and took the time to speak to The Global Herald concerning his career in business and the technology behind cool plasma gasification:
Tell us about your early career in investment?
I entered mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs from NYU as an associate in 1983 then joined the legendary quantitative strategies group run by Fischer Black where I built one of the first fully-electronic trading systems. This powerful system traded up to 12% of the volume on the New York stock exchange between 1983 and 1987. At night I played at CBGBs in a punk bands such as “The Savage Pencils” and “Drums by Gus”. After the crash of 1987 I left Goldman to consultant with banks that sought to implement this technology including: Swiss Bank Corporation, Bank of America and Solomon Brothers.
In 1998 I created clearstation.com to bring the industrial-strength investment tools I used everyday to the average investor for free. Clearstation was the first of it’s kind: a free, technical and quantitative analysis social network for friends could trade investment ideas and hold each other accountable for their choices. It was purchased by ETRADE in 1999 and is almost untouched from the code we wrote more than 10 years ago. How many websites have that kind of durability in their code?
What are the investment prospects for green energy at the moment?
Dim for wind and solar. Bright for biomass. Subsidies can only go so far and taxpayers are already stretched beyond the limit. Biomass technologies such as adaptiveARC’s do not require subsidies to be profitable and provides a unique green energy investment opportunity. Our average break-even even in developing nations is 3 to 5 years. In the coastal US and most of Europe it can be less than a year.
What is your opinion on the Pike Research April 2011 report that says global revenues from waste-to-energy systems will more than triple to almost $13.6 billion by 2016?
I have enormous respect for Pike Research’s work. Based on our business development this is a conservative estimate on a global basis. The USA will experience only half that growth. Our analysis pegs the market at $30-40B.
What is cool plasma and how does it compare with the alternatives?
All forms of plasma arcs, from the torch in your neighborhood body shop to the spark plug in your car, have 3 characteristics:
UV light, and
Gasification as a science is older than the light bulb. In the past decade engineers have been applying plasma torches to the process and producing extraordinary results: low emissions and high-quality clean energy. However these torches have used only a single aspect of plasma: high temperatures.
Our inventor, Christian Juvan, is a pioneer in the applied use of UV light and the pulse waves generated by plasma torches. Cool Plasma™ is a term we give to our combination of technologies that integrate all 3 characteristics of the torch. The benefits of integrating these forces allows us to provide a clean and much more cost-effective solution than other traditional alternatives. The industry consensus is that plasma arc gasification is the state-of-the-art in safe and clean waste transformation. All we do is make it affordable.
As for the competition, they are continuing a long line of legacy development that involves creating large, costly and inflexible systems. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.” The best our competition can do is build a better horse.
What are the by-products of the process and are there any risks to the use of cool plasma gasification?
All of the products of our process are clean and safe. Our principal product is a synthetic natural gas called syngas. Syngas can be combusted to create electricity or transformed to liquid fuels which is virtually emissions free at our site. Because even well managed waste pollutes our land water in air our economic transformation process actually reverses environmental damage. In every instance of our technology we are creating energy that cleans.
How is the take-up rate for adaptiveARC’s cool plasma systems? How do communities, companies, governments and different countries compare in their response?
The adoption cycle for any new waste or energy technology is very slow. That said, we have enjoyed an enthusiastic reception globally. Our primary markets are the developing world: the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India and China] and Civets [Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa]. Our staff is multicultural and multilingual. An average day for me in California begins with breakfast in Italian, lunch in Latin American Spanish and dinner in Mandarin and this is the right posture for our technology. Just as with mobile phone technologies, developing economies are skipping generations of legacy waste management systems and leading the way with plasma arc gasification.
Is there anything that governments could do to accelerate the adoption of such technology?
Gasification is the opposite of incineration. To burn you need oxygen. To gasify you need to starve oxygen. Few definitions exist to make this simple clarification. The UK has the most advanced definitions of gasification as a non-burning transformation technology. As other countries follow this lead regulations can be created to ensure clean and safe systems such as ours can be adopted.
You have moved from tech to green energy and worked with a number of companies which have been acquired – what is next on the horizon for you?
I left software and finance 10 years ago because they are mature sectors. Innovators in these markets cannot offer much in the way of breakthroughs and multiples of return both for public benefit and for investors. Clean energy is a passion shared by everyone in my new industry, but passion is not enough. It takes leadership to create a genuine revolution. I believe my decades of experience in displacing technology in Silicon Valley and the wisdom that comes with high-stake high-volume money management on Wall Street has given me the essential preparation to bring Christian Juvan’s revolutionary technology to the world.
At a recent conference in Mexico City I was introduced by a host who said, “The world is as bad today as it’s ever going to be. Our land, water and air are polluted. It’s in the food we eat. However, there’s a new generation of technology that is reversing this damage. This group requires little or no government support and calls on the private sector to profit from its use. adaptiveARC is at the forefront of this trend.”