Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Plasma Gasification

Plasma gasification to proceed in Zhuhai / Foster Wheeler (plasma plant builders in Teesside UK/Westinghouse Plasma) involved

Plasma plant in Zhuhai

Why won’t government listen to incineration alternatives?

18 December 2014

As the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee prepares to consider the government’s proposal to build an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, I hope – as a Hong Kong taxpayer – it will ask some good, hard-hitting financial questions.

The first of these should be whether the budget is realistic. The budget increases for this unproven project have been substantial. In Lai See, Howard Winn pointed out that the capital cost of the incinerator rose from HK$18.2 billion to HK$19.2 billion between April 16 and October 17 (“Shek Kwu Chau incinerator smells even before it starts”, October 31) and that in April 2012 when the Environmental Protection Department submitted the project to the environmental affairs panel, the cost was HK$14.96 billion. The final construction cost is likely to be significantly higher, but how will it be funded given the cost of other infrastructure projects?

Second, the committee should consider the negative impact on property and investment values in South Lantau and Cheung Chau. Lantau in particular is being touted as Hong Kong’s next major source of income: the bridgehead to the Pearl River Delta with potential for business, conferences and tourism. But who wants to invest in a hotel overlooking an incinerator?

Who will want to hike Lantau’s glorious trails or enjoy its beaches while breathing in whatever will be produced by this outdated moving grate technology, especially when similar leisure activities are a short plane ride away in Southeast Asia? One only has to walk from Mui Wo to Sunset Peak to understand this – but has anyone in the government actually bothered to do so?

Third, how about value for money? Even the department admits that about 30 per cent of what will be burnt – if the incinerator finally gets going on time in 2022 – will have to be transported to a landfill. And yet a landfill is exactly the problem it is supposed to solve.

Many times the advantages of alternatives have been laid before the government, but no one seems to listen. Plasma gasification, which is more efficient and could be arranged faster, was dismissed, unfairly, as untried. Low-cost and advanced recycling possibilities are routinely ignored.

After the political turmoil of the last few months, this is the Hong Kong government’s chance to show that it can listen and think about the future: Legco can help it take that opportunity.

Amanda Whitmore Snow, Lantau

Proposed incinerator will be world’s most expensive bonfire

26 November, 2014

In reply to Victor Sum’s letter (“Promote incinerator advantages [1]”, November 14), I would like to inform him that the proposed incinerator has nothing worth promoting.

In fact, 30 per cent of what is burnt will go to landfills. And, based on the Environmental Protection Department’s own data, this will require the extension of all three landfills.

The reality is that the incinerator is a poor choice for Hong Kong on account that it is old technology. It does pollute (why else would the Netherlands not install the same incinerator within 15 kilometres of a residential area, based on health concerns of its residents). It will cost Hong Kong taxpayers billions to build and millions to run once built. The energy it produces is small and there is no agreement on price from CLP, so it is unlikely to produce any cash offset for its operating costs. Plus, the incinerator won’t be ready until 2022 or later. All three landfills will require extending from 2015.

The problem is the department is blinkered and is pressing ahead knowing all this and residents like Mr Sum are sufficiently misinformed to buy what the department is selling.

There is a better solution. It is gasification and it burns everything. It is cheaper than the reclamation alone at Shek Kwu Chau. It produces “syngas” that can be turned into biofuel and sold to airlines and shipping operators, therefore producing a profit within the first year of operation.

If built now, it would be operational by 2016. But, best of all, it can be used to back-mine the existing landfills, turning them back into useable land (back-mining involves digging up the old rotting rubbish from the landfill and feeding it into the gasification plant).

Maybe Mr Sum and other residents with similar views should write to the department, instead of these columns, and demand a better solution than the world’s most expensive bonfire.

Craig Colbran, Lantau

China adopts waste processing technology rejected by Hong Kong

07 November, 2014

Howard Winn

We see with some interest that the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Development Zone is planning to build a waste-to-energy plasma gasification project with a capacity of 2,000 tonnes per day. It will be the world’s biggest plasma plant. This is of interest because green groups have been imploring Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department to take a proper look at this technology before proceeding with its proposed incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.

These pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the EPD has clung to its incinerator project. The current price for this is HK$19.2 billion and rising. The original price in April 2012 was HK$14.92 billion. The incinerator will produce almost 1,000 tonnes a day of toxic waste, which has to be loaded into barges and sent to landfills. The incinerator is estimated to export some 10MW of electricity. This compares with the Zhuhai Gaolan Port project, which aims to produce some 200MW of exportable power. The project is being built for about 2.8 billion yuan (HK$3.5 billion) which we are told should be increased by a factor of three to compare with Hong Kong prices, which takes it up to HK$10.5 billion.

So half the price and 20 times the amount of electricity and no toxic ash. But the other aspect of interest here is that the company building this plasma project – Guangdong Plasma Power – is a subsidiary of the local power company Zhongshang Jiaming Electric Power. We gather that Hong Kong’s local power companies have considered the possibility of running plasma plants next to their power plants but have received no response from the government. We are frequently told by the EPD in letters to the SCMP and in public statements that the plasma technology is untried and not suitable for Hong Kong. Yet Guangdong Plasma plans to start building its Zhuhai plant in July 2015 and to complete it by December 2016 well before Shek Kwu Chau is built.

Hopefully the Legislative Council finance committee will scrutinise this carefully before giving the green light. It might at the same time ask the EPD about its practice of sending 1.41 million tonnes a year of construction and demolition waste (CDW) to landfill. It seems odd given that Hong Kong sends 20,000 tonnes a day (7.28 million tonnes a year) of CDW to China for “storage” under an agreement with China’s Oceanographic Administration. The remaining 11.56 million tonnes of CDW is recycled according to the EPD. You have to wonder why any CDW is being sent to landfill.

People are rightly incredulous when they hear this. The EPD claims that 80 per cent of CDW is recycled though the figures show that 58 per cent is recycled.
This compares with levels of 99 per cent for Singapore and 95 per cent for the Netherlands and Germany. It is a mystery why Hong Kong has to send such colossal amounts of waste to landfill. But its good business for the likes of Veolia Environment and their subsidiaries and Sitra, which control waste management in Hong Kong.

Hills Selects Chinook Sciences for 22 MW Waste to Energy Gasification Plans in Wiltshire, UK

17 October 2014

Ben Messenger

Northacre Renewable Energy (NRE), part of waste and recycling firm, The Hills Group, is proposing to submit a planning application to build a 22 MW waste to energy gasification facility at the Northacre Industrial Park in Wiltshire.

The proposed site is located between Hills Waste Solutions’ existing Northacre Resource Recovery Centre (NRRC) and Arla Foods Westbury Dairies at on the industrial park in Westbury.

The facility would use gasification technology to generate electricity. The company said that discussions with local businesses that are interested in being supplied with local heat and power from Northacre Renewable Energy are ongoing.

Nottingham, UK based waste gasification and clean technology firm, Chinook Sciences, has been selected by Hills as the technology partner for the proposed waste gasification plant.

If the facility goes ahead it will process 160,000 tonnes of high calorific content Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) Hills’ NRRC, as well as local Commercial and Industrial (C&I) waste  to generate 22 MW. Some of power generated will be used by the waste to energy facility and the adjoining NRRC material recycling facility.

Hills explained that currently the SRF from the NRRC is transported by road to port and shipped to energy facilities located in Germany and Holland because there is not a local waste to energy plant in Wiltshire.

The company said that Northacre Renewable Energy will help fill the gap in the renewable energy market and enable locally produced fuel to be used to generate local energy which supports the concept of regional energy security.

Northacre Renewable Energy will also create 40 new jobs and support Wiltshire’s aspiration for a green economy.

The plan is for Northacre Renewable Energy (NRE) to also provide electricity and potentially heat to adjacent businesses on the Northacre Industrial Park, and to export the surplus electricity to the National Grid.

“We are creating a local circular economy,” commented Northacre Renewable Energy director, Mike Webster commented.

“Wiltshire’s household waste is made into a SRF at Northacre RRC and together with commercial and industrial waste destined for landfill will supply the proposed Northacre Renewable Energy facility right next door which will in turn power local businesses,” he added.


According to Chinook, its RODECS® gasification system, now in its ninth design generation, uses the company’s patented Active Pyrolysis® process to reclaim valuables and transform discarded waste materials into energy.

By combining both pyrolysis and gasification the system is claimed to be capable of processing any form of organic waste, recovering metals and other recyclable materials, and producing a clean synthetic gas (syngas) for energy generation.

The proprietary process is also claimed to not require any form of pre-sorting or pre-processing.

The first RODECS system was commissioned in 2000 and had a batch capacity of 2m3. The company noted that it is still in full operational today. The current generation is said to have a batch capacity of over 100m3 and is capable of processing 100,000 tonnes of MSW per year.

According to Chinook, Hills conducted an extensive two yearlong selection process, using a firm of independent engineers to assess a range of conventional and Advanced Thermal Treatment technologies, before selecting its technology.

Planning process

The planning application process began recently with the launch of a consultation programme. The site has been identified in the Wiltshire and Swindon Waste Site Allocations Plan 2013 as a site suitable for a ‘Materials Recovery Facility, Waste Transfer Station, Local Recycling and Waste Treatment’.

Hills said that an eight week period of pre-planning consultation to seek views on the proposal to develop the Northacre Renewable Energy facility has now begun, with a public exhibition planned for the 4 November from 2pm to 8pm at Northacre RRC.

The company added that at this early stage in the development local businesses, community leaders and residents are being consulted.

Northacre Renewable Energy is aiming to submit its planning application to Wiltshire Council in December 2014. Subject to planning, Northacre Renewable Energy would then be built in 2015/2016 with the facility fully operational in 2017.

SCMP: Follow best practice on waste incineration, and think local

Friday, 15 August, 2014


As project designer of a conservation group on Lantau, I wish to respond to the letter by Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, regarding the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator (“Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]”, August 5).

I visited the plasma arc gasification plant in Teesside, in northeast England, on June 18, joining its annual open day. Many delegates and big name companies from around the world attended. I was the plant’s first “Hong Kong delegate”.

The day included presentations and a visit to the plant, which was impressive. It is the largest plant in the world and will come into commission by next year.

The most striking part of the visit was the large number of delegates from China, gathering information on plasma. Two out of the three presentations given were by Chinese companies, which have set up plasma gasification plants; it felt as if China was teaching the rest of the world.

I also talked with the British team that met seven Hong Kong government representatives when they visited Britain. They had met in a hotel room in London for an hour: the Hong Kong representatives had said they did not have enough time to visit the Teesside plant. They then visited a small-scale plasma gasification site, in Avonmouth, in southern England, Afval, a company generating electricity from waste in the Netherlands, and then went on to Denmark.

The reaction of the British officials had been the same as mine: surely, if you go on a fact-finding mission, you should go to the best example of whatever that subject is.

Someone senior in the government told me we needed the proposed super incinerator, because, firstly, Hong Kong people were never going to be able to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste in time; and, secondly, plasma would not work.

After my visit to the Teesside plant, my response is to ask: why will plasma arc facilities not work? If the rest of the world is doing it, and it needs to be done, then Hong Kong can do it.

Let’s catch up. Hong Kong always wants everything super-sized, but is that the way of the future?

The workable future is smaller scale and localised. A plasma plant can be constructed quickly, and does not pollute or need landfills, as there is no residue ash waste.

We can set up cluster recycling centres for composting, recycling, plasma arc facilities and education centres where they are needed all over Hong Kong.

The government has already signed contracts so it is reluctant to change tack. But what is really best for Hong Kong?

Jenny Quinton, Ark Eden Foundation, Lantau

More on this:

Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]

Source URL (retrieved on Aug 15th 2014, 5:55am):


Lai See: Garbage in, garbage out

Saturday, 07 January, 2012

Howard Winn

A letter in today’s paper pooh poohs plasma arc technology as a means of disposing of municipal solid waste saying: ‘To demand that the Environmental Protection Department should consider this technology, which is unproven at any commercial scale, for Hong Kong, is about as ludicrous as suggesting to shoot all of our garbage by space rocket into the sun!’ Strong words from Alexander Luedi, who is the general manager of Explosion Power Hong Kong.

A little context of interest here, which Luedi doesn’t mention in his letter, is that his company, according to its website, specialises in cleaning furnaces, boilers, ash hoppers, silos and other vessels. ‘We provide online boiler cleaning equipment and services to thermal power plants, waste-to-energy plants, … to improve thermal efficiencies, reduce downtime, and improve the safety of maintenance workers.’

So it’s not unreasonable to think Luedi’s eyes lit up at the prospect of business opportunities from a monster incinerator that processes some 3,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste a day which, in turn, generates 1,200 tonnes of fly ash.

In his letter, Luedi says plasma arc technology, ‘is neither needed, nor feasible for the disposal of 3,000 tonnes per day of municipal waste.’

His views don’t appear to be shared by authorities in Japan, the UK, Mexico, India and China, which are all using plasma arc technology to process municipal solid waste and to convert it into energy instead of the conventional moving grate technology proposed for Hong Kong. The new technology produces little in the way of emissions of toxic dioxins and less mess for the likes of Luedi and his company to clean up.

(letter in question)

Incinerators’ good global track record

South China Morning Post

SCMP Letter   Jan 07 2012

Incinerators’ good global track record

Plasma arc is a suitable and proven method for the disposal of small quantities of hazardous waste. However, for household refuse it would use large quantities of energy, and it is definitely neither needed, nor feasible, for the disposal of 3,000 tonnes per day of municipal household waste.

The “old-fashioned” moving grate technology is fully capable of addressing Lai See’s “noxious chemical cocktail” (“Making a hash of dash to ash”, January 4) and hundreds of plants operate worldwide in highly sensitive areas.

To demand that the Environmental Protection Department considers this technology, which is unproven at any commercial scale, for Hong Kong is about as ludicrous as suggesting shooting all our garbage by space rocket into the sun. What is needed is a plant that meets the highest standards in operational efficiencies. That is where the department could learn from my firm.

Alexander Luedi, general manager, Explosion Power Hong Kong Limited

Georgia Tech Research Institute Plasma Arc Gasification of Waste

MSW Incineration has the highest CO2 emissions per mwH of electricity produced

Plasma Arc treatment of MSW the most efficient process for electricity to grid vs Mass burn = WORST

Speaks for itself.

Edmonton Waste-to-Biofuels facility close to completion

Construction of the world’s first industrial scale municipal waste-to-biofuels facility is about to be completed.

The Edmonton Waste-to-Biofuels Facility will be built, owned and operated by Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, a subsidiary of Enerkem. Using Enerkem’s proprietary technology, it will convert 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste into 38 million litres of biofuels annually and help Alberta reduce its GHG emissions. (Waste-based biofuels can reduce GHG emissions by more than 60 per cent when compared to gasoline.)

The City of Edmonton is currently diverting up to 60 per cent of residential waste from landfill through recycling and composting. The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility will enable the City to increase that diversion rate to 90 per cent.

The feedstock for producing biofuels is municipal solid waste that cannot be recycled or composted and has traditionally been sent to landfill. Using waste to produce cleaner burning fuels is a major leap forward in Edmonton’s commitment to alternatives to landfills and an integrated energy vision.

Initially the facility will produce methanol, followed by ethanol. The goal of producing methanol and subsequently ethanol has both environmental and economic benefits since it supports the increasing demand for biofuels.

The Waste-to-Biofuels Facility is part of a larger initiative totalling $131 million which includes a feedstock preparation facility and an Advanced Energy Research Facility.

Using waste as a resource for fuel will contribute to GHG reduction, reduce the need for food crops as feedstock for ethanol, and enable Alberta to lead the way in biofuel production.

CNW: PyroGenesis signs $1.5M Agreement with Leading Appliance Recycler; 2014 Backlog now Exceeds 2013 Revenues by more than 50%

from the Canada Newswire:

PyroGenesis Canada Inc. today announced that it has signed an agreement with Canada’s leading end-of-life refrigerator and freezer recycler (“Client”) to provide them with additional equipment and services (including onsite optimization) for PyroGenesis’ patented SPARC technology. As part of this agreement, the Client will commercialize the SPARC technology on an exclusive basis within Canada.  This agreement, totalling up to $1.5M, includes several options for follow-on service contracts, all of which are expected to be executed within 2014.

PyroGenesis’ environmentally friendly and cost-effective Steam Plasma Arc (SPARC) Destruction System allows clients to safely destroy ozone-depleting substances (ODS) which can generate as much as 10,000 times more Green House Gases when compared to CO2 emissions. “The successful introduction of this technology within Canada is the first step to expanding the commercialization of PyroGenesis’ patented SPARC technology on an international scale”, said Gillian Holcroft, Executive Vice President, Strategic Alliances for PyroGenesis.

As previously reported, PyroGenesis’ SPARC technology achieved an unprecedented 10x greater destruction efficiency as compared to current requirements. Conservative estimates show that there are at least 25,000 tons per year of ODS that require destruction. This represents over $100 million of business potential to PyroGenesis with no apparent competition at these destruction efficiencies.

“Our Client intends to incorporate PyroGenesis’ SPARC technology into its existing appliance recycling business. As part of this Agreement, PyroGenesis will also be the exclusive supplier of after-sales service and support. The operation of PyroGenesis’ patented SPARC technology at the Client’s new industrial facility will demonstrate to the world the environmental and economic benefits of safe and effective ODS destruction”, said Gillian Holcroft, Executive Vice President, Strategic Alliances for PyroGenesis.

“With this agreement in place, and with only one week into the New Year, PyroGenesis’ 2014 backlog already exceeds its 2013 revenues by more than 50% while maintaining our recently improved gross margins, as reflected in our most recent Q3  financial results and MD&A”, said P. Peter Pascali, President and Chief Executive Officer of PyroGenesis. “Our continued success with traditional market sectors, combined with our penetration into key markets such as Oil & Gas and Mining & Metallurgy, is yielding significant results, and we expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future.”

7 Jan 2014