SoMax Disruptive Solid and Liquid Waste Conversion Technology

Bioenergy generation is a revolutionary technology invented by SoMax Founder and CEO Dan Spracklin. Four years ago, in late 2019, we first interviewed Spracklin about his world-changing SoMax concept, then under development in collaboration with Villanova University. That was while he was still the CEO of Gray Brothers Septic Services, Philadelphia, PA’s leading wastewater systems provider (operating largely in the Main Line area). Operations had just been moved into a new 110,000-square-foot facility with Gray and SoMax sharing the space. And Dan had recently announced that the SoMax operations would soon launch, using a $400K wastewater treatment grant to start production.

The Advent of SoMax Technology

We discovered in 2019 that the thriving 90-year-old Gray Brothers family business had quadrupled in size since 2013 under Spracklin’s leadership, to claim about 90% of the Philadelphia liquid waste market in its expansive segment of the metro area. We’ve now learned that, as planned, Dan and his wife, Amy (Gray) Spracklin, sold Gray Brothers in 2022 to focus full-time on SoMax. 

By 2019, Spracklin and his team of five engineers had already spent years of R&D on optimizing the SoMax waste conversion process and explore myriad applications for it. In these most recent four years, SoMax has not only moved to production but has been rapidly multiplying its industrial clients. 

Today, the SoMax onsite waste conversion system is operational at various manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and internationally. SoMax technology is generating renewable energy for the companies at those sites and extraordinarily contributing to global air and water rehabilitation.  

What is SoMax?

Since 2019, the SoMax technology, as projected, has been soaring on its trajectory to overtake the liquid and solid waste treatment industries. It replaces traditional hauling and disposal methodologies with an on-the-spot waste-to-energy conversion process. It further generates a resulting product of rich soil nutrients that replace dangerous synthetic farm fertilizers. 

From our vantage point, SoMax is easily recognizable as a green power production mega concept. As Spracklin explained in 2019, other economic sectors to be disrupted by this transformative new technology include the energy industry, farming, and ranching — three top polluters. 

In just these few years since our exciting introduction to SoMax, its team has completed proof of the concept, rolled out its machinery to buyers, and made the brand a powerful instrument of change wherever it’s been installed. In the beer manufacturing industry across multiple US and international regions, the technology has become the wave of the future. Implementation of multitudinous SoMax systems in related industries is anticipated within the next few years. Those include applications in food production, food processing, food service, multi-housing property development, and many, many others. 

The transformative reach of SoMax technology can be expected to extend far beyond providing the convenience of on-site waste management to industrial and commercial users. It can be understood as the catalyst for reversal of the compound adverse environmental effects of any extension of modern life. 

What Does SoMax Do?

SoMax equipment redirects solid and water waste disposal of septic, agricultural, food, and other excess organic material away from landfills and traditional wastewater treatment facilities. It converts the waste matter instead into highly efficient green fuel and valuable bio-products. This technology executes a rapid, sustainable, spectacularly simple, clean, and economical process in a very compact unit that converts solid and liquid waste into green energy for use at the client’s site!

SoMax is identified as a Carbon Reduction Platform (CRP). That means it forms a symbiotic relationship between different types of broadscale users so that one’s waste material is another’s green energy resource. It is understood as a closed macro-management renewable energy model that changes the relationships between agriculture, manufacturing, and sanitation subsectors. It enables these major polluters to succeed in effective global environmental stewardship by functioning together as an energy-regenerative, mutually- and self-cleaning industrial triad.

How Does SoMax Work?

The SoMax CRP process, as explained in its simplest terms by Dan Spracklin in 2019, works like this: It dehydrates carbohydrates in water, by applying moderate temperature and pressure increases. In other words, the CRP uses wet biomass (saturated to more than 20% moisture content) as its raw materials. The process speeds up the natural decomposition process from many years to just a few hours.

The biomaterial is chopped up into bits, saturated with water, and pumped into a reactor, which Dan suggests visualizing as an "industrial-sized pressure cooker.” The material is then dehydrated, by heating it to around 450 degrees (the same temperature used to bake cookies or pizza).

Because the water is under pressure, it doesn’t convert to a gas during the dehydration process. Instead, it facilitates the breakdown of the cellular walls of the biomaterial and disintegration of the biomass’s chemical bonds, converting the carbon-containing molecules into a pure carbon char-like material.

The SoMax Bioenergy technology works through a reaction called hydrothermal carbonization (HTC). As Dan describes the process in layman’s terms. In addition to heat, a pressure of 290 PSI is applied during the process. This puts water in a subcritical state. The water acts as a catalyst, reducing the matter into smaller chain hydrocarbons and some newly formed water.

Designing the process to be done wet gives us an important advantage over using dry conversion. Other processes require 100% dry material. This approach saves a tremendous amount of energy. If you gasified at the back end of the process, you’d have a significant amount of excess energy. This takes bio-solids, or any organic matter that would normally go to a landfill, even forestry waste, and converts it. The process generates zero net carbon emissions, because it’s already in the cycle. It’s utilizing carbon that’s already in the atmosphere.

Why the World Needs SoMax NOW 

Naturally, with a growing world population, the global air and water have become polluted to a disturbing degree. An endless worldwide flow, in shocking volumes per day, of raw sewage containing pharmaceutical waste, mass quantities of synthetic fertilizers, many other toxic chemicals, and vast amounts of other dangerous substances are adding a staggering combined annual total of pollutants to our environment. These cause diseases and accelerate climatic change. The SoMax technology systematically cleans up the air, water, and soil. It further brings a practical solution at long last to 2.4 billion people still living without basic sanitation access.

Everything in the SoMax process represents a carbon sink. That means it’s an action that effectively absorbs carbon dioxide. It’s not unlike the part that plants and soil perform as natural carbon sinks that take in CO2 and repurpose it. In our 2019 interview, Dan explained the situation if we continue depending on the traditional systems:

Carbon Pollutants: Carbon pollutants in the global atmosphere are approximately 420 ppm. Humans need to reduce that to 350 ppm for our species to survive over time. And, for example, in 2018 alone (the year before our 2019 SoMax discussion), 240 million tons of food waste were generated worldwide, of which around 95% are dumped into landfills. 

Wastewater Volume: Much of the world’s wastewater is from feedstock for farm animals. Between the agro-industry, municipal wastewater, and urban food waste, there is an overwhelming need for SoMax technology, which can process these waste materials in any environment.

Inefficient Waste Processing: Converting carbon matter to fuel by conventional means requires large land areas, takes several months, and releases vast quantities of methane. Or, the anaerobic digestion option uses multi-million-gallon tanks and takes a month to break down bacteria to produce biomethane, and it emits about half carbon dioxide to convert the other half to biomethane. Plus, it must be flared or vented, which pours deadly gasses into the air. So, there’s zero energy recovery from that. In contrast, SoMax takes about 30 minutes to 4 hours to convert manure, food waste, forest waste, and other bio-solids with 90% carbon efficiency, i.e., only 10% conversion to carbon monoxide and dioxide (which is scrubbed later in the process).

Landfill Space Shortage: In just 24 more years almost all US landfills will be at capacity. Northern locations have already been reaching capacity and shutting down and waste is being shipped south. When those southern sites soon fill up, it will have to be shipped to the Midwest and then farther west. SoMax replaces landfills, taking very little space and causing no negative environmental impacts.

Groundwater Contamination: Food waste is the largest bulk of waste continuously pouring into landfills. That includes 30% garbage, plus manure, grass, and related bio-solids, etc. This massive waste source causes serious groundwater problems. As all this material breaks down through the years, the methane becomes more threatening. Leachate seeps into water wells and is 860% more dangerous to humans than CO2.

Bio-Solids in Wastewater Treatment: This is an increasing biohazard. Chemicals in cleaning supplies, grooming products, medications such as (hormones, antidepressants, etc.), and other dangerous materials are transported in feces to wastewater treatment facilities. Today’s systems are still not efficient in treating these agents. The inadequately treated water moves on for use in watering farm animals and crops. SoMax converts 90% of these chemicals to hydrochar, which kills viruses and contains no bacteria or parasites. You can literally eat it!

A Future Transformed by SoMax Technology

The astounding benefits of SoMax Bioenergy technology include extraordinary reductions in waste processing time, treatment space, bioenergy conversion costs, and harmful byproducts. So, SoMax can be expected to become a familiar solution for governments and global enterprises. 

Dan notes that there’s an inexhaustible amount of waste material continuously being generated, currently around 4.2 trillion tons that are convertible to fuel by SoMax technology. The byproduct of the SoMax is of even more intense interest to him. For instance, converting food waste to "hydrochar" for water filtration, vs. sending it to a landfill, means food garbage can ultimately be used for filtering drinking water!

One effect of generating power from hydrochar is the creation of a singas. That’s a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane. This mixture is then scrubbed to remove the harmful components and leave only a pure CO2 stream. Combusting the singas for electricity production can be done 24/365, with or without sunshine; it’s perpetually generating power. 

Per Dan’s 2019 explanation: The energy density in bioenergy is 19 megajoules per kilogram from hydrochar produced from bio-solids. Food energy is very dense, yielding 25-30 megajoules per kilogram. So, the amount of waste from a Walmart may be enough to power the entire store.

For scale, a SoMax facility the size of a shipping container will convert 15K tons at a time. For treating larger volumes, you can just add more container-sized units. In New York City, for example, with 10 million people, the incomparable results and cost reduction vs. current methods make it a simple choice to implement this superior technology.  

The SoMax system even features a de-packaging process that culls out plastics. Other non-biodegradables, like metals and glass, must be separated in advance using regular recycling practices.

For a clearer perspective, from every 100,000 tons of food waste processed through SoMax equipment, 30,000 tons of hydrochar is yielded, which produces more than 5,000 kWh of electricity and 25 million gallons of liquid fertilizer as one of its useful byproducts. Hydrochar combustion is CO2 neutral. 

That means the CO2 that the process leaves is only what is already in the environment. It’s not being added from newly extracted fossil fuels. And, the byproduct contains no heavy metals or other contaminants, just a pure form of nitrogen. Extracting organic nitrogen through this process can cut emissions from producing synthetic fertilizers by 140%.

SoMax Now – December 2023

Today, it’s four years into the future from our first discussion with Dan Spracklin about SoMax. It was still a commercially unrealized idea then, in a late design modification and testing phase. Now, in December 2023, in Dan’s response to our request for an update, he informs us that SoMax now has projects underway in various stages across four states and operations supporting the distilled spirits, whiskey and bourbon, industry. 

He explains, we can meet the thermal demand of the distilleries by converting their spent grains into hydrochar and gassifying it to feed their gas boilers. It reduces the carbon footprint from their manufacturing operations by 97%. We’ve just started down the path with major breweries in the US and Europe that have similar profiles where the system will have a huge impact on the carbon footprint. 

Our processes allow us to recover nitrogen in ammonium sulfate, which is returned to farmers who are growing the grains in the form of very low-cost fertilizer. And the distillery gets the energy from the spent grains. We can also recover 60% of the water used in the distillery, which comes out to about 11.5 million gallons of water recovered per year.

We’re just moving into the beer industry, and we’re starting to work with manufacturing material recovery facilities, recyclers, municipal solid waste management agencies, including county- and community-level players. 

We treat the leftover organic constituents of liquid food waste. Plugging in the HTC system converts the organic food waste so it can be burned for energy or maintained as soil amendments or other useful products. Hydrochar, for example, is an excellent binding agent for asphalt roads, roofing shingles, etc. It effectively sequesters gasses contained in the material while it is being used in that way, which means it offers important applications for infrastructure. 

We’re still operating with a pretty lean staff in-house while we’ve partnered with over 40 different organizations. Those include our manufacturing, engineering, and sales partners across eight states, with four active projects in four states. 

We won an award from the Department of Energy in 2021. We were the Grand Prize winner of the Resource Recovery Challenge. We were selected for doubling the amount of resources recovered from sewage. We won another award from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States for the council’s 2021 Innovation Challenge acknowledging our unique whiskey and bourbon manufacturing-related work. 

Until the Next 4-Year Check-in with SoMax…

In 2019, we asked Dan Spracklin what he thought the significance of Gray Brothers’ new SoMax technology would ultimately be. He responded then, "I believe it’s going to revolutionize the wastewater hauling industry and the wastewater treatment industry."

Today, he’s doing what he’s always done as a consistently extraordinary business leader building his long track record of transforming businesses into top competitors. He’s collaborating with the best minds available to advance his cause, continuously improving, aggressively growing his company, and (from 2019) prioritizing the need to continue finding the best ways to work together with local agencies and the legal system to obtain necessary approvals of new technologies. 

Spracklin is an indisputable force of nature. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that he would invent a breakthrough technology that is sure to change the world. From a large-market dominator and innovator at Gray Brothers Septic Services in Philadelphia, the phenomenal CEO, organizational development expert, and septic systems design master is now the pivotal figure in the future of the solid and liquid waste treatment industries and the ever-more powerful green energy economic sector. 

We recognized him in 2019 as arguably the country’s key figure in septic services knowledge. With his transformational invention, its development for industrial and public utility use, and the rapid growth of SoMax, it appears reasonable in 2024 to identify Dan Spracklin, CEO, SoMax, as the bio-waste-to-energy conversion industry’s premier global authority.

SoMax’s short- and long-range growth projections on distribution are very aggressive. The environmental, human health, and economic significance of this technology cannot be overstated. The coming age of SoMax is certainly going to benefit us all. Thank you, Dan Spracklin.

For more information about the incomparable SoMax Bioenergy technology, visit

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