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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opens low-carbon innovation hub in Hong Kong

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon attended a signing ceremony between Chinese health companies and Scottish universities in Shanghai on Wednesday before making the trip to Hong Kong.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially launched a centre in Hong Kong on Thursday that is partnering with a Scottish university to promote the adoption of low carbon and sustainable technologies in the city and the Pearl River Delta, which extends into south China’s Guangdong province.

The centre is being run in partnership with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI), part of the University of Edinburgh. This brings together governments, businesses and universities to develop and implement low carbon innovations for sustainable economic development.

“This is the first education institution in the world to establish a low-carbon research and innovation centre in another country and I am delighted that it is a Scottish university that is leading the way and setting the standard,” said Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader and highest-ranking politician in Scotland.

“Like the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, the University of Edinburgh has a world-class reputation and I’m confident that this relationship will help provide Scottish companies with a route into Hong Kong and, through its strong links with China, act as a gateway into China.”

The centre is being hosted by the HKSTP in a partnership that is also designed to advance technologies in areas such as “smart cities”, which eye greater digital connectivity.

Their goals include working to “commercialise environmentally friendly innovations, information and communications technology and material, and precision engineering,” said Andrew Young, chief commercial officer of the company running the park.

“China produces 26 to 27 per cent of the world’s carbon, and Hong Kong is a key gateway, and an important centre in its own right,” said Ed Craig, deputy director of the centre.

Almost 20 Scottish businesses have been brought over to Hong Kong in the past three months. They focus on areas like air pollution and the environment. Six more are due to arrive soon under the new agreement.

Hong Kong businesses and researchers will be invited to work with the centre in Edinburgh, which also has partnerships with Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot Watt University, the centre said.

The centre has helped thousands of small companies in Scotland to reduce their carbon footprint and create profit from waste, Craig said.

This relates to the concept of a circular economy, which aims to phase out waste and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, among other changes.

Craig used the example of Celtic Renewables, which has worked with the centre to produce bio fuels using two waste products from Scotland’s whisky industry that were previously dumped in the sea or on land.

“They’re looking at the waste product and saying we can make a second or a third income from [it], which also makes our [main] product much more environmentally sustainable and financially sustainable,” he said.

Craig identified Hong Kong’s transport system, building standards and energy consumption as ripe for innovation.

Hong Kong uses 4,200 buses made by Scottish company Alexander Dennis, which carry about 4 million passengers every day, according to its website.

Craig described these as “relatively low carbon” but said improvements can be made as the company is already starting to introduce hydrogen buses in Scotland.

8 ways to rethink resources: nappies to benches and food waste to biogas

3 November 2014

Conscious consumers know not to use disposable plastic bottles, or single-use plastic bags, and try to use as little packaging as possible in order to save the planet. A growing number of companies are also developing innovative ways to give waste a second lease of life.

1. Nappies to roof tiles and railway sleepers

Every parent knows that disposable nappies generate enormous amounts of waste. And with the average baby using the equivalent of 150kg of wood, nappies waste a lot of resources, too.

To remedy this, two years ago Scotland – with a total of 450,000 used nappies per day – pioneered a nappies-to-roof tiles scheme. Nappies are collected in recycling bins and sent to treatment plants, where they’re sterilised and the human waste removed. The plastics and celluloid contained in the nappies are then converted to everyday products such as park benches, railway sleepers and road signage.

In Mexico, consumer product giant P&G now turns rejected Charmin nappies into roof tiles, while scraps from its American Pampers nappies are reused as upholstery filling. Fifty P&G plants now produce zero manufacturing waste, and it claims that repurposing the waste has created an additional value of $1bn for the company. Elsewhere, a growing number of parents are turning to GNappies. The British company makes nappies in two parts: covers that can be reused, and inserts that can be composted or even flushed down the toilet with human waste.

2. Paper to reduce food waste

Rarely does one blank piece of paper make a big difference. But FreshPaper, an organic and biodegradable sheet added to fruit and vegetables, keeps the produce fresh for two-four days longer, thereby eliminating countless tonnes of wasted food. As world demand for food keeps rising, eliminating food waste will become even more important. Today FreshPaper, first sold at farmer’s markets in America, is available in shops in several dozen countries.

3. Sustainable construction materials

San Diego-based Ecor takes cellulose fibres, a material found in wood, cardboard and even forest and agricultural waste, and turns it into new construction material. The process is surprisingly simple: the waste is mixed with water, heated, pressurised and made into sturdy panels that can be used in a variety of functions: as wall panels, tables, bowls, building walls, even glasses frames. Best of all, the products contain no toxic additives and can themselves be recycled at the end of their life-span.

4. Clothes from old water bottles

If you really need to buy soft drinks or even bottled water, make sure to recycle the bottles; they can be used for yarn. Bionic Yarn turns used PET bottles into fibres that can be used in clothes. This is how it works: the bottles are cut into chips, which are in turn shred into fibres. The fibres are mixed with polyester and spun into yarn. The end product, reports Bionic Yarn, contains 40% recycled plastic bottles, including ones from the large colonies of plastic bottles floating on the world’s oceans.

5. Agri-waste into plastic bottles

Bio-on provides an excellent reason to choose your plastics carefully. The Bologna-based company has developed a pioneering process that allows it to turn agricultural waste into biodegradable plastics. Using a fermentation process involving sugar beet, Bio-on manufactures plastics that can be used for anything from food packaging to electronics. Better yet, the process requires no chemical additives, and the end products are biodegradable, dissolving upon prolonged contact with bacteria.

6. Worms as fertiliser

Repurposing waste can be as simple as it is ingenious. In Guatelamala, Byoearth uses red worms to transform food and other biodegradable waste into organic fertiliser. Doing so, of course, reduces waste but also results in higher-quality soil.

7. Food waste to biogas

Got food waste, need energy? BioTrans Nordic has got just the thing for you, especially if you work in a restaurant, canteen or other large kitchen. The Danish company’s BioTrans tank stores food waste, where it turns into biomass. The biomass is collected by a truck for delivery to biogas plants and delivery to local customers.

8. Recycling polyester

Japanese firm Teijin didn’t set out to repurpose clothe; it’s a chemical company. But, almost as a by-product of its R&D, Teijin discovered a way of recreating polyester from itself. Because reusing clothes’ fibres has long been considered near-to impossible, Teijin’s discovery was a considered a breakthrough. It has already saved tonnes of clothes from landfill, and earlier this year, Swedish firm Re:newcell unveiled a similar process for cotton. For several years now, retailer Patagonia has sold clothes made from Teijin-recycled fabric.

Today you can wear new clothes made from old clothes and old plastic bottles, while eating food enhanced by old food – and stored in plastic containers made from agricultural waste – in a restaurant powered by food-waste energy and decorated by agricultural-waste wood panels with nappy-based roof tiles. Not too shabby.

Chinese Deal for Waste to Biofuel & Chemicals Firm Enerkem

28 October 2014

Canadian waste to biofuels and chemicals firm, Enerkem, has signed an agreement with Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute (SMDERI) to develop a project partnership to jointly build a waste to biofuels facility in China.

SMDERI is a state research institute on marine diesel engine in China, as well as an enterprise group engaged in R&D, manufacturing, service and project contract.

For its part in the new project partnership, Enerkem said that it will license its proprietary technology to convert a variety of waste feedstocks into biofuels and chemicals.

The company added that the final business structure and sites are under discussions and will be announced at a later time.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Donghan Jin, president of Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute, and Vincent Chornet, president and CEO of Enerkem in the presence of the Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, as part of the Quebec government’s trade mission in China.

“Combining SMDERI’S expertise in equipment manufacturing and fuel ethanol distribution with our own strength in the conversion of waste to ethanol will create powerful synergies,” commented Chornet.

“The deployment of our disruptive technology in this market to produce clean transportation fuels from a variety of waste feedstocks also demonstrates that Enerkem’s global export capacity can help sustainably address the growing issue of waste disposal in China,” he added.

State approves tax incentives for $193 million Pike County project to turn natural gas into synthetic fuel

Would create 30 full-time jobs paying average hourly wages of $34.16

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 28, 2014) — Pike County could soon be the location of a $193 million synthetic oil production facility with estimated production of 1,700 barrels a day. Kentucky economic development assistance program  officials in Frankfort today game preliminary approval for $18 million in tax incentives to RCC Big Shoal LLC.

RCC BigShoal is a newly formed company that has developed technology to convert natural gas to synthetic diesel fuel, synthetic base oils and lubricant oils, and synthetic naphtha, according to information presented this morning at the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority’s monthly meeting.

The KEDFA board must approve tax incentive packages that private sector companies negotiate with the state Cabinet for Economic Development under its portfolio of programs. Companies lower their future tax bills for state and local taxes if they fulfill commitments to invest in Kentucky and/or hire state residents.

The project would create 30 full-time jobs paying average hourly wages of $34.16, which does not include benefits. Pike County’s most recent unemployment rate was 12.2 percent, much higher than the state average of 7.5 percent. Information presented at today’s KEDFA board meeting did not list a possible start date for the Pike County project.

RCL Chemical Conversion LLC is listed as owning at least 20 percent of RCC Big Shoal, which could receive state tax breaks through the cabinet’s Incentives for Energy Independence Act program, which the General Assembly enacted in 2007. IEIA incents companies that make or sell non-fossil fuel and alternative energy products, including transportation fuel; products created from coal or biomass; and alternative power generation.

David L. Farmer, president and CEO of RCL Chemical, is the principal of RCC Big Shoal, which filed Kentucky papers in mid-February, according to Farmer previously led construction, startup and operation of the world’s largest commercial scale chemical plasma gasification plant at Dow Corning’s Midland, Mich., facility.

According to the website of RCL Chemical Conversion, which is incorporated in Delaware, its gas-to-liquids technology is the “commercial solution for marketing remote U.S. natural gas reserves and the oversupply of ethane.”

It is pursuing modular GTL opportunities for remote and smaller gas fields where scale has been a limiting factor. Estimates are that less than 10 percent of the world’s gas fields are capable of sustaining a 10,000 barrels per day facility, according to RCL Chemical Conversion’s website.

“However, scaling down to a 2,000 bpd production range is estimated to open 70 percent of the world’s gas fields to economic viability,” it states. “Hence, approximately 30 years of energy independence immediately derived from the U.S.A’s newfound and now procurable natural gas reserves.

Eastern Kentucky’s shale gas reserves could fit that scaled-down model.

Kentucky shale gas activity that rose with the development of hydraulic fracturing techniques has fallen off the past few years in favor more easily worked and more productive plays in the Marcellus Shale formation under Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. In addition to its Devonian Shale assets, Kentucky is on multiple major gas transmission pipeline routes running between the nation’s main energy processing cluster on the Gulf Coast and the prime consumption markets in the Northeast corridor.

The proposed Pike County project meets IEIA statue conditions, according to the state’s Department of Energy Development and Independence, and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research. Kentucky’s Department of Revenue reported to KEDFA that RCC Big Shoal is in good standing.

What’s the point of yet another report on biodiesel?

Tuesday, 22 July, 2014


Howard Winn

Interesting to see that the Hong Kong government is to commission a study into the costs and benefits of using biodiesel fuel with a view to blending it with fossil diesel.

Why the government is embarking on this study is not wholly clear since the Environmental Protection Department commissioned the University of Hong Kong to carry out a feasibility study for using biodiesel in vehicles in 2003.

Then ultra-low-sulphur diesel was sold at petrol stations in Hong Kong. The sulphur content of the fuel was lowered from 500 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm on January 1, 2001. The report found a blend of 20 per cent biodiesel fuel caused a slight decrease (less than 1 per cent) in engine power, a 16 per cent reduction in smoke opacity and 14 per cent reduction in hydrocarbon emissions.

However, as the EPD’s website reports, on December 1, 2007, the government introduced Euro V diesel, which has a sulphur content of 0.001 per cent. Since then, all filling stations in Hong Kong are exclusively offering this fuel. The EPD’s website also points out that fuelling existing diesel vehicles with Euro V diesel can reduce their sulphur dioxide and particulates emissions by 80 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

In other words Euro V is a vastly superior product to ultra-low-sulphur diesel. Adding biodiesel to Euro V diesel will have a negligible effect on emissions. There is plenty of information on this available so we are curious as to why there needs to be another report.

Hopefully this is not going to end up as a sop to the biodiesel industry which would be keen on having its products used in this way. Maybe it’s a way of fending it off. Either way, we suppose that it shows the EPD is doing something.

The university report also noted concerns that biodiesel could damage the fuel lines of vehicles older than 10 years, and void the vehicle warranty and insurance. We look forward to seeing what new information the government will come up with.

NY Food-Waste-to-Energy Pilot Expands

New York City will expand a pilot food-waste-to-energy program this fall.

The program, which launched last summer, diverts food from the waste stream and converts it into natural gas, Capital New York reports. The city expects the program to avoid about 90,000 metric tons of CO2.

Waste Management separates the uneaten food from the rest of the trash it collects.

During the pilot program, the city has processed between 1.5 tons and 2 tons of food waste daily. This will increase to 50 tons a day under the expanded program. The city hopes to eventually process 250 tons daily.

The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, which processes the waste, could process up to 500 tons or 15 percent of the city’s residential organic waste, the newspaper reports.

In New York City’s other food-waste reduction efforts, its restaurants diverted more than 2,500 tons of food waste from landfills between May 2013 and November 2013. The food from 100 restaurants participating in the city’s voluntary Food Waste Challenge was used as compost or donated to food banks.

August 15, 2014

Telegraph: British Airways to fuel planes with rubbish

by Natalie Paris, Daily Telegraph:

A former oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex, will house the Green Sky project which is being built to open in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs.

Around 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, will be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels using integrated technology from Solena Fuels.

BA has then agreed to buy 50,000 tonnes per annum of the jet fuel at market competitive rates.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said the recycled fuel will allow the carrier to significantly reduce its carbon emissions.

“The sustainable jet fuel produced each year will be enough to power our flights from London City Airport twice over, with carbon savings the equivalent of taking 150,000 cars off the road.”

The process will apply high temperature plasma gasification technology to turn the waste into synthetic gas and then into liquid hydrocarbons.

Airlines from all over the world are set to meet at the 2014 Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva in two weeks’ time. It is hoped that this project will revolutionise the production of sustainable aviation fuel.

16 Apr 2014

Chairman’s Focus: Waste management consultation

In Hong Kong, 43% of the city’s daily municipal solid waste (MSW) waste is food waste – ultra wet food waste (water content is 75% in mall waste and 90% in wet market food waste). The Government insists on burning this water-waste with an incinerator on a scenic island, but the feedstock does not have the required calorific value required for combustion. Previous tests at composting Hong Kong food waste failed miserably due to the low quality and water content, and the test samples were actually landfilled since they were neither saleable nor exportable.

If there could be a mandatory separation for food waste here, placed in a Green Bin (see below example on Santa Monica), then collected Free of Charge by Government contractors, delivered to Transfer stations and garburated into a puree, the food waste can be then poured into the sewage system network. The CEPT system at Stonecutters island alone (there are ten other smaller treatment plants also) can handle 2.45million m3 of sewage per day by 2016. For reference, the current daily load is under 1.3million m3, so 3,600m3 of ultra wet pureed food waste per day would be a negligible load increase. This idea came from a senior technical engineer working for a company that happens to be Government consultants and it is totally viable.

The removal of food waste contamination would leave dry MSW that could form a new recycling industry here – without this, you cannot sort MSW already mixed and contaminated by food waste. Our Government-provided recycling figures are inflated. They pad the figures using imported trash from Europe and America that was being transferred through HKG to China – this only came to light when China erected ‘Operation Green Fence’, leaving many incoming containers stuck here.

The current lack of waste pre-sort requirements leaves food waste to create methane (23 times more dangerous greenhouse gas then CO2) and hydrogen sulphide when buried in landfills. On top of that, trucks drip foul stinking water (again, because of the high water content in local food waste) onto the roads whilst delivering to landfills. Flies and rats abound. The above food waste option, aside from being a much cleaner option, will create sensible recycling industries here. Tuen Mun can become ‘Green Tuen Mun’ instead of the territory’s toilet.

Landfills: viable recyclables are currently being dumped in landfills since they are tainted with food waste and there is no viable local recycling industry. A major portion of the landfilling is construction waste. Whilst 18,000 tonnes of construction waste is hived off to CEDD daily for shipping to China the remaining 3,000 odd tonnes of unusable construction waste is landfilled.

In Belgium a joint venture between APP UK and Group Machiels is building a  plasma gasification plant at the Houtalen Hechteren landfill – this will reverse-mine the landfill back to its pristine state, the recovered metals will be sold, electricity will be generated from the plasma syngas hydrogen and sold to the local grid and the plasma’d soil will form Plasmarok, fused at 6,000 Degrees C into an inert saleable road aggregate. The Government was offered a FREE 150,000 tonnes per annum trial plasma plant and rejected it, as it went outside of their incineration blinkers. This could have been operational now at the Tseung Kwan O landfill.

Incineration requires increased oxygen, frequently the addition of low-grade coal or oil to obtain combustion of wet matter and burns at 850 degrees C. If the burn temperature drops due to wet feedstock dioxins can and do form. Dioxins also form mostly on startup and shutdown of the burner. There are numerous peer reviewed studies of cancers, orofacial child defects, and deaths in proximity to incinerators. These are facts. The Government consistently refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of this salient health matter. The proposed stack height at Shek Kwu Chau will affect the whole of Hong Kong with wind borne toxic pollutants and heavy metal emissions carried on PM1 and PM2.5 particulates that escapes bag house covers and other equipment. Meanwhile, 30% of what is burned by weight remains as toxic bottom ash and fly ash. This needs landfilling, hence the need to extend landfills instead of doing away with landfills. Government officials will start applying to Legco for funding to build mega islands in the sea for new ash lagoons, when Hong Kong is hit annually by tropical storms. Super typhoons like Haiyan are always ready to hit and destroy empty safety promises of protective structures and punish the city with a blanket of toxic ash.

With current judicial reviews and appeals, the mal-thought incinerator option would not appear until 2023, by which time the rest of the world will be using plasma gasifiers for years already. Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, countries that Hong Kong citizens don’t usually consider superior in terms of progress, are moving ahead with plasma projects; Solena Fuels Inc already signed with Pertamina Indonesia for an MSW feedstock plasma plant.

In a plasma gasification plant, plasma gasifiers operate with an initial fluidised bed at 1,200 – 1,500 degrees Centigrade that vaporises anything – construction waste, MSW, rock, metal – into its molecular gaseous state. The dirty syngas is then passed through multiple plasma arcs operating at the temperature of the sun, above 6,000 degrees Centigrade, which destroy any dioxins or other contaminants, leaving only pure hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is captured and the hydrogen is used to drive turbines to produce electricity. The plant emissions from the hydrogen are steam. There is no ash to landfill.

Alternative processes can add a Fischer-Tropsch backend process that takes the syngas and creates carbon neutral bio jetfuel, bio naptha, bio diesel or bio marine fuel as in the Solena Fuels system. Such systems are used in large-scale plasma plants that are being built in numerous countries, with some in the UK close to completion. The BA / Solena Fuels plant with a capacity of 1550 MSW tonnes per day and produces bio jetfuel is underway in London. (BA has ordered 3 more plants, one more in UK and two in Spain.) Lufthansa / Solena plant is underway in east Germany near the Polish border. A total of 14 airlines have signed agreements with Solena for projects, including Qantas, SAS, Alitalia, Fedex, Alaskan, American, Canadian Air etc. Maersk is seeking planning permission for a bio marine fuel plant with Solena in New Jersey. The US plant in Gilroy, California will supply the US based airlines.

Westinghouse Alter NRG has operated MSW / RDF plasma plants in Japan since 2001. Their Utashinai plant closed recently due to the loss of feedstock contracts to operate the plant. The Government and recently an alliance of Govt friendly academics are misleading the public by implying that the Utashinai plant closed due to technical problems, when the real reason is the lack of MSW feedstock. We challenged the academics, CS Poon from HK Poly U and Irene Lo from HKUST, to produce the evidence of Utashinai failure or retract their statements at an open public meeting in Tuen Mun this afternoon. They rejected the invites and any ‘evidence’ they might have is of course unavailable, still lying in the EPD’s imagination. (Coincidentally, Elvis Au – the prime mover of the incinerator idea from EPD, CS Poon, Irene Lo, and other EPD engineers are all on the Environment Committee of the HK Institution of Engineers, from whence the Alliance of academics has sprung.)

Westinghouse torches will power the Teeside Airproducts plasma plant in UK. The 1,000 MSW tonnes per day plant will open within the next few months. A second plant is also being built by Airproducts next to the first and will supply the UK Government Cabinet office with an 84 million pounds savings on its future energy bills.

Building an incinerator will cost 20 billion, landfill extensions 10 billion, operational cost per year 300 million + landfill management costs, new ash lagoons in sea 15 billion – treatment costs of illnesses caused by the emissions ??$ billion

Plasma gasifier – cost ZERO – funded by the design build operate company – operation cost funded by operator – emissions hydrogen/steam

Coming back to the Green Bin collection of food waste. This has been done successfully in numerous cities in California, especially with Santa Monica, where incidentally the undersecretary of environment, Christine Loh, has a residence. There is no excuse as to why Hong Kong should not take up the idea. By removing the food waste problem and initiating proper local recycling businesses, we obviate the need for an incinerator and the need to extend landfills.

The Government Environment minister previously stated unwisely that they have no Plan B – it’s time for a plan ‘G’ (‘G’ for Green Bin).

James Middleton


8 Jan 2014

Food waste creates methane (23 times more dangerous greenhouse gas then CO2) and hydrogen sulphide when buried in landfills. The delivery trucks drip foul stinking water onto the roads whilst delivering to landfills. Flies and rats abound.

letsrecycle: APP receives funding for waste-to-gas project

by Tom Goulding, writing for letsrecycle:

Gasification specialist Advanced Plasma Power (APP) has been awarded a £1.9 million grant for commercial trials of the production of its residual waste-derived syngas for use in homes.

The finance is part of a three-year project partly funded by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem).

APP will conduct commercial trials of waste-derived syngas production in Swindon. (letsrecyle)

The project, co-managed by APP, the National Grid and Progressive Energy, a clean energy development firm, will produce low carbon methane, or bio-substitute natural gas from residual waste for use in the UK gas network.

APP will conduct a two stage thermal gasification process at its trial facility in Swindon, which became operational in 2008.

The programme, which is the second phase of a feasibility study started in February 2012, aims to establish whether converting waste-derived syngas to a quality acceptable for the gas network is commercially viable (see story).

The second phase of the trial, for which APP has the received the Ofgem funding, will look at gathering data from the procurement, fabrication, and test operation of the demonstration facility.


APP says that the trial will provide technical and economic data to demonstrate the viability of rolling out the technology on a commercial scale.

Waste for the trial will not be derived from any single supplier, but the company has said that it will be seeking to carry out testing on a wide range of feedstocks.

Work will start in April 2014, and will be split into three phases for building, commissioning, and testing the programme, with an estimated completion date of March 2017.


SCMP Letters: Officials stick with outdated technology

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

Mary Melville is spot on with her comments on food waste and her invitation to the secretary for the environment (“Environment-friendly fix makes molehill of food waste mountain [1]”, October 12).

Besides the possibility of using special bacteria to convert biosolids sludge into agricultural fertiliser, there is a similar biological system (operational in California) that converts such waste into bio- plastics. It is reported that these biodegradable materials offer a realistic alternative to plastics derived from oil – seemingly a double whammy for environmentalists.

Many lucid letters have questioned the Environmental Protection Department’s plan for a massive incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau and its brusque brush-off of Green Island Cement’s efforts to use municipal solid waste (MSW) in an Eco-co-combustion facility proposed at its Tap Shek Kok cement plant.

Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, poured cold water on this proposal because “this technology has not been used for MSW treatment anywhere in the world for large tonnages” (“Cement plan not yet viable refuse solution”, August 16).

I was therefore astounded to read the report (“Saving a packet”, October 2) about a firm that has been highly successful in using this technology on a large scale in Switzerland for some time and will incorporate the technology into its Asian cement kilns in India and Vietnam.

It seems that our Environmental Protection Department is getting well behind the curve. Cement kilns operate at 1,450 degrees Celsius and gasification plants burn at over 1,500 degrees, whereas the outdated incinerator planned for Shek Kwu Chau will only reach 850 degrees.

This has a large bearing on emissions and residue.

I also cannot understand why we are not planning to use already proven plasma gasification technology to generate electricity from MSW, in conjunction with Hongkong Electric and CLP Power. This would render the Shek Kwu Chau plans superfluous.

It appears our civil servants are bureaucratically locked into a plan that will not give Hong Kong the most effective, efficient, or environmentally sound outcome, and therefore the Legislative Council was correct to block the department’s funding request. By Mr Au’s own admission, the department has blocked Green Island Cement’s use of MSW since 2000, while all this time our landfills inexorably extend.

Perhaps when environment secretary Wong Kam-sing replies to Mary Melville, he can also clarify the confusion surrounding the Shek Kwu Chau project.

24 Oct 2013