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December 13th, 2011:

Plasma Gasification Deal Approved in Ottawa

13 December 2011
plasco 300 TPD Plasma Gasification Backed by Ottawa Mayor
A 20 year deal between waste to energy gasification specialist, Plasco Energy Group and the City of Ottawa to dispose of up to 300 tonnes of the city’s waste each day has received the full backing of Mayor Jim Watson, according to a report in The Ottawa Citizen.

Under the terms of the yet to be finalised contract, a “framework” has been released that would see the city would pay $9.1 million a year to Plasco, if it takes those 300 tonnes a day – 109,500 tonnes a year, or roughly a third of Ottawa’s household waste.

“The agreement, in my opinion, is a good deal for taxpayers and it’s also a good deal for the environment and I’m going to support it,” Watson is reported to have said. “Digging a hole and putting garbage in it in the 21st century just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

The company is currently making efforts to commercialise its plasma gasification, which instead of using plasma torches directly on the waste uses them only to refine the gases released from the gasification of the waste.

Because of the city’s early support for the Plasco, it reportedly stands to receive payments if the company builds commercial plants elsewhere.

The 20 year contract is reported to have options to be extended to 40 years. Depending on how successful the company is a 40 year deal would cost the city between $400,000 and $950,000 a year more than the status quo of dumping most of its household waste in the Trail Road landfill.

However, the report said that that does not account for the eventual cost of finding a new landfill site is full. The city puts that cost at $250 million and Toronto recently paid $220 million to buy a private landfill for its own use.

Ottawa’s city government is said to estimates that under existing conditions, the Trail Road landfill would have to close in 2042, but the 300 tonne per day deal with Plasco would extend that to 2070.


According to CBC television News – which the covered the full day of questions by city councillors, the ministry, interested groups and citizens as the deal was recently passed by a margin of seven to one – critics of the deal have said the city should not pin its hopes on an unproven technology.

Some have questioned the potential impact that the facility could have on the city’s recycling rate. while Rod Muir of the Sierra Club of Canada is reported to have said he’s crunched the data from Plasco’s trial runs and has concerns.

Muir was at Ottawa City Hall to address councillors on the environment committee where he expressed his doubts about Plasco converting, what he calls, “spotty” test results into a reliable commercial operation.

“It has never worked successfully on mixed municipal solid waste,” Muir is reported to have. “It hasn’t here either…It has never worked anywhere.”

However, aware that Plasco’s process has never been deployed at a full scale permanent facility that runs to a steady schedule, Watson is reported to have said that he’s satisfied that the contract contains enough protections for Ottawa if Plasco can’t do what it promises.

“At the end of the day, if the process doesn’t work, that’s Mr. Bryden (CEO of Plasco) and Plasco’s problem, it’s not the taxpayers’ problem,” added Watson.


ClientEarth takes Government to court over air pollution levels

Dec. 13, 2011

13 December 2011 | By Joanne Harris

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are taking the Government to court today for not tackling high levels of air pollution in the UK.

Mr Justice Mitting will this morning (13 December) hear ClientEarth’s challenge against the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, saying that the Government should have complied with EU limits for air quality by 1 January 2010.

6 Pump Court’s Stephen Hockman QC, who is a trustee of ClientEarth, will argue the case.

The organisation says 17 regions and cities, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff, will not meet the limits until after 2015.

ClientEarth is asking the court to order the Secretary of State to draw up plans that will achieve legal compliance throughout the UK by 2015. It also wants Mitting J to make a declaration that the Secretary of State is in breach of her legal obligations.

James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth said the Government’s strategies for tackling air pollution were “frankly pathetic”.

Thornton added: “Instead of delaying action in the hope they can persuade the EU to weaken the legal limits the Government needs to tackle this public health crisis now.”

Success for Australian trial of carbon capture and storage

TONY EASTLEY: Carbon capture and storage, considered by many to be the poor cousin of the climate change response, enjoyed a breakthrough in the recent Durban Climate Conference.

The technology to strip carbon dioxide from power generation and industrial processes has been approved as a clean development mechanism.

It was often criticised as too risky, too expensive and too far off.

However, the scientists behind an Australian trial of carbon storage say they can now prove that it works and it’s safe.

As Simon Lauder reports, critics of the scheme aren’t convinced.

SIMON LAUDER: In March 2008, scientists began injecting carbon dioxide deep underground near Warrnambool in south-western Victoria. Now the results of that experiment are in.

CHARLES JENKINS: This project went extremely well, the results are pretty convincing and I think we could go ahead with this right now.

SIMON LAUDER: CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) research scientist Dr Charles Jenkins is the lead author of a paper published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It shows what happened when scientists pumped 65,000 tonnes of CO2-rich gas 2 kilometres underground into a depleted natural gas reservoir.

Dr Jenkins says the project proves storingCO2 in depleted gas fields is effective. And there’s now enough evidence to proceed with large scale geological storage of CO2 in gas fields the world over.

He says the potential is huge.

CHARLES JENKINS: There’s a lot of these depleted gas fields that are ideally placed for that. The estimates are that after 2050 you could probably get rid of about two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that’s being produced by these big sources.

So globally it’s a very, very significant resource for us.

SIMON LAUDER: One of the main concerns raised about storing CO2 underground is that it may just leak back out again.

Dr Jenkins says that didn’t seem to happen.

CHARLES JENKINS: We have a very sustained an intensive program of monitoring the groundwater, the soil and the atmosphere. We could see absolutely no sign of our activities frankly.

SIMON LAUDER: Can your findings be readily applied to other sites or are they very site specific?

CHARLES JENKINS: Well, it’s a question of whether you think the bottle is half empty or half full really. I mean it’s one measurement. Before we had this measurement we didn’t have any measurements.

SIMON LAUDER: Critics of carbon capture and storage say it’s still unproven on any large scale.

Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, Arthur Williamson.

ARTHUR WILLIAMSON: They have managed to make it work for a short time, on a small scale, in a particular gas field.

SIMON LAUDER: The project has been run by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies with the backing of the Australian Government and the efforts of scientists from around the world.

TONY EASTLEY: Simon Lauder.

New system to make ban on idle engines a breeze

Hong Kong Standard

With the ban on idling engines just a day away, the territory has unveiled its first automatic system to keep cool drivers who have stopped.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

With the ban on idling engines just a day away, the territory has unveiled its first automatic system to keep cool drivers who have stopped.

Developed by the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the system aims to ease the problem of high in-vehicle temperatures during idle stops while improving roadside air quality by cutting emissions.

“With this system, when a vehicle comes to a complete stop, the engine will stop automatically, cutting emissions caused by idling,” council chairman Clement Chen Cheng-jen said.

“Also, once the engine stops, the auxiliary air-conditioning system will kick in immediately and can keep running for up to an hour.”

The system, funded by the government Environment and Conservation Fund and the Woo Wheelock Green Fund, is currently undergoing patent registration and can cut fuel consumption, Chen said.

“We plan to commercialize the technology through licensing to auto parts manufacturers for sales and production, creating business opportunities for the industry.”

The council is also upgrading the system to extend air-conditioning supply to up to two hours, a feat that will be tested early next year.

Under the ban taking effect on Thursday, drivers cannot leave their engines idling for more than three minutes in any 60-minute period, subject to a fixed penalty of HK$320.

Taxis at stands are exempt, as are the first two minibuses at stands. All drivers are exempt during very hot weather or rainstorm warnings. STAFF REPORTER

Who’s paying the piper?

South China Morning Post

Speaking on RTHK’s Backchat programme yesterday, Jim Middleton, chairman of anti-pollution group Clear The Air, mentioned that it would be interesting to know the funding for the various interests in Legco that succeeded in delaying then watering down the idling engine legislation.

He makes a good point. Do the bus companies fund political parties? Is this why legislative action to reduce vehicle emissions is so painfully slow?

Most developed economies have laws forcing political parties to divulge the source of their funding. It would be interesting, for example, to know where the DAB gets HK$70 million that enables it to provide free rice to older voters in housing estates, bus them to the polling booths and so on. But since those pulling the party strings are unlikely to want this, it’s unlikely to happen.

Developers show extent of influence

South China Morning Post – Dec. 13, 2011

More than 70 seats on the Election Committee were won by candidates holding key positions in the city’s dominant businesses, mainly property, a result critics said illustrated the extent of the sector’s influence over the chief executive election.

But while the hand of business in politics was too significant to ignore, it did not amount to a monopoly, one political analyst said.

Business figures won 73 seats – with 49 contested and 24 uncontested. The seats were spread across the commercial, tourism, transport, hotel and engineering subsectors.

Research by The Professional Commons, a pan democrat think tank, released ahead of Sunday’s election showed 85 candidates held senior positions – such as executive directorships – in major enterprises and subsidiaries.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (SEHK: 0016) was at the top of the list, winning 12 seats after fielding 15 candidates. All nine candidates from The Wharf (Holdings) (SEHK: 0004) won, while Henderson Land Development (SEHK: 0012), Great Eagle (SEHK: 0041), Cheung Kong-Hutchison (SEHK: 0013), Jardines and Swire won five to six seats.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, convenor of the think tank’s research committee, said the results showed developers had extended their influence beyond the original design of the electoral system.

“Developers were supposed to represent the interests of their own subsectors, but subsidiaries also won seats in other subsectors, which has strengthened their influence in deciding the next chief executive,” he said.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political analyst at Chinese University, said the sector’s influence was too obvious to ignore.

“Of course it has a significant impact [on the election], but it’s not as big as a monopoly,” Choy said. Other subsectors, like agriculture and fisheries, were seen by Beijing as much more secure bastions of votes.

Three supporters of sustainable development who ran as independents failed in their effort to break the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s dominance in the commercial (first) subsector.

The chamber’s 18 candidates for the 18 seats were returned with vote tallies ranging from 183 to 338.

Markus Shaw, president of WWF Hong Kong, won 166; Dr George Cautherley, a vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation, secured 126; and Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, a former investment banker, 147.

“We were obviously disappointed,” Wong said. “But given the chamber’s iron-clad votes, a significant voice was heard echoing to show where we stand and the message we send.”

Cheung Kong (Holdings) (SEHK: 0001) and Sun Hung Kai got more than 130 votes – out of 860 in the commercial (first) subsector – through their subsidiaries. Election Affairs Commission Justice Barnabas Fung Wah said last week the subsidiaries had registered in accordance with the rules.