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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Discarded tires made useful

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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Discarded tires made useful

Community leaders toured Efficien Technology recently. Pictured, left to right: Chris Thorpe, project manager, Efficien Technology, Steve Behler, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Frank Neal, director of Planning and Development, City of Statesboro, Randy Wetmore, city manager, and Phil Boyum, city councilman.


               Often the rumors buzzing around Statesboro on social media are normally so much more interesting than the actual truth. One Statesboro company, Efficien Technology located in a warehouse at Northside Drive East and Zetterower Road is a great example of this speculation.
        Through a partnership with the Statesboro-Bulloch County Development Authority, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Southern University, Efficien chose to relocate to Statesboro in 2013.
        Efficien Technology is a company lead by Chris Thorpe, an environmental engineer, who is working to perfect a technology that recycles old tires into usable, environmentally friendly products. The center of this research is a Pryolysis machine. This machine uses the Pryolysis process which uses heat to decompose products without using oxygen. Through this process, the product undergoes chemical and physical changes.
        After running it through the pyrolysis machine, tire material is turned into a gas, a liquid and a solid material they call Char. This machine was developed in 1990 by Michael Willwerding, an inventor from Oregon.
After developing this technology and operating it for several years, Willwerding sold the technology to a group of investors in Texas. They operated it for about 18 months and then shut down the research program.
        One of the investors, Robert Mitchell the owner of Applied Ceramics in Atlanta, purchased the technology and the machine. He had a relationship with Dr. Don McClemore, who at the time was serving as executive director of Georgia Southern University's Herty Advanced Materials Development Center. It was this relationship, combined with economic incentives and the partnership with the GSU Chemistry department that made Statesboro attractive.
        The equipment was disassembled and relocated to the Statesboro warehouse in 2013. It took Thorpe and his team one year to reassemble the machine and get it operational. They ran the first test of the machine in September 2014. The machine is now operated one day a week every Tuesday. It runs for 24 hours and takes 12 hours to warm up and consumes 250 tires. Efficien currently has seven employees.
        "Our goal with this technology is to create environmentally friendly usable products from the recycling of tires," Thorpe said. "So far we have developed a char product which our research is proving can be very useful in restoration of soil for agricultural operations. We have also developed a liquid that is very effective in treating paraffin that develops in crude oil extraction and distribution. Obviously, we have to perfect these products so that we can create some market demand for the machines."
        According to the rubber manufacturer's association in 1990, there were 1 billion scrap tires stockpiled in the U.S. Through technological advances, we have seen that number reduced to under 75 million. American's discard 300 million tires per year.
        Currently, the three largest scrap tire markets are tire-derived fuel (53 percent, ground rubber applications/rubberized asphalt (24 percent) and civil engineering applications (4 percent).
        Efficien Technologies goal is to perfect this process and build these machines throughout the world helping to protect the environment by finding creative and profitable ways to reuse old tires.

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