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January, 2014:

SCMP: Hong Kong’s professions must not be protectors of their own privilege

by Philip Bowring, published in the SCMP:

Hong Kong people are familiar enough with the power as well as wealth of the city’s landed aristocracy. Less obvious is the privileged position of leaders of some of the so-called “learned professions” – lawyers, accountants, doctors and the like.

Like guilds in medieval Europe that were created to enforce standards of workmanship and training on craftsmen such as weavers and goldsmiths, they have become over time as interested in protecting themselves from competition and keeping out new ideas as in looking after their clients. The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants cannot be accused of overly restricting membership or imposing unreasonable entry requirements. But, not for the first time, its willingness to take prompt action in cases involving prominent members accused of misconduct is in question.

On December 24, it finally announced a decision in the case of Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, until recently chairman of the Hospital Authority and previously chairman of auditing giant Ernst & Young, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the government-allied think-tank the Bauhinia Foundation – among a myriad other posts.

Wu was found guilty of professional misconduct relating to his involvement in New China Hong Kong Group, which collapsed in 1999. It then took 14 years for the institute to investigate and finally come to a decision on what, on the face of things, was not a very complicated case. It did so only after Wu had stepped down in November from the Hospital Authority and announced it on a day which ensured minimal media coverage. Wu received his top appointments despite the cloud hanging over his professional integrity.

It is better in principle that professional bodies police themselves rather than having governments impose themselves. But the Wu case leaves one asking whether anything has improved since the then Society of Accountants failed to act against Price Waterhouse in the case of the Carrian Group collapse. Price Waterhouse was Carrian’s auditor and its senior partner became managing director of Carrian.

Another accountant long showered with official appointments has also recently been in the news – Marvin Cheung Kin-tung. A former chairman of auditors KPMG and of the Society of Accountants (the previous name of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants), he is currently chairman of the Airport Authority, a member of several boards including HSBC and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, and a former Executive Council member.

Cheung is rightly engaged in the debate over the third runway – though one might feel that coming from the private sector he would expect it to be funded commercially rather than from the public trough. But it was surprising to see someone in such a position with a public body make a big media splash defending the inordinate land lease privileges of the Hong Kong Golf Club.

For sure, as president of that club, he wants those privileges maintained. But his dual roles are another classic example of how some private-sector leaders have become installed deep inside government and can influence public affairs for private advantage. His comments on golf have also drawn attention to the existence of a private course on Airport Authority land, the little-known nine-hole course close to Terminal 2.

The elite golfers who cling to the claim that Hong Kong needs three courses at Fanling and spurn alternatives such as on Kau Sai Chau might get some sympathy if they ever used their position in or near government to spend real money on public sporting facilities, particularly for schools. The abysmal standards of fitness of young people, as revealed by recent surveys, is as much due to the lack of facilities as parental obsession with book learning and fears that sport leads to injuries. Public needs are not met by building a showpiece stadium.

Now we are told not to exercise as the air is too foul. Endless government expressions of worry about the costs of health care are nothing but hypocrisy until it invests in the prevention of disease – starting with clean air and opportunities for physical activity.

Another contribution to public health – and one with no cost at all – would be to take on the doctors’ lobby and allow foreign-trained doctors (and nurses) to practise here.

As revealed this past week, mortality rates in several public hospitals are far higher than they should be in a city with Hong Kong’s wealth and technical abilities. Shortages of beds, particularly in intensive care units, is one reason but staff shortages are even more to blame. Yet Hong Kong’s political system, which enshrines every principle of vested interest, ensures that it cannot easily benefit from foreign-trained doctors.

High-quality professional service is a major part of Hong Kong’s appeal. But it will not be sustained in the longer run if the professions are protectors of privilege rather than standards, and their prominent members are seen as part of the small group of mutual back-scratchers who turn up on every major private-sector board and government statutory and advisory body. The corporate state is the antithesis of Hong Kong’s spirit of entrepreneurship and social mobility – and of independent professions.

12 Jan 2014

Howard Winn: Government needs to rethink its waste management policy

from Howard Winn’s Lai See column on the SCMP:

We see that the forces in favour of building a large incinerator near Shek Kwu Chau are coming together for another push at getting the project approved by the Legislative Council. A South China Morning Post story recently reported that a group of academics and professionals were calling on the government to scale back landfill and get on with building the incinerator.

“We need to act now, or this will end with rubbish piling up on the streets,” said Professor Poon Chi-sun, of Polytechnic University’s civil and environmental engineering department and spokesman for the new Alliance for Promoting Sustainable Waste Management for Hong Kong. Poon says the government is right to adopt moving-grate technology – in which waste goes through a combustion chamber – in its incinerator plan, adding that the technology is used in 2,000 plants around the world.

What he doesn’t say, however, is that the number of operating incinerators and the installation of new ones is declining. In the United States, the number of moving-grate incinerators dropped from 186 in 1990 to 87 in 2010. In Japan, it fell 25 per cent between 1998 and 2005. In Europe, there is an overcapacity of incinerators because of successful recycling efforts. Not so long ago, New York City issued a tender for a waste management facility specifying that it did not want offers using traditional moving-grate technology.

Professor Irene Lo Man-chi, of the University of Science and Technology’s department of civil and environmental engineering, said the technology had been proved to be a reliable option that was safe in terms of emissions. This is a moot point, and there are peer-reviewed reports showing abnormally high death rates and incidence of cancer among people living near incinerators. We accept that modern incinerators produce less emissions but that is not to say they are safe.

One technology that is known to produce far less emissions than incineration is plasma gasification. However this is dismissed as the wrong choice by Lo, who says it wouldn’t be able to cope with Hong Kong’s volume of waste. And by way of support, she says that problems with plasma technology had led to the closure of a 10-year-old plant in Japan. She omits to say that the plant was closed because it ran out of feedstock. She also appears oblivious to the number of plasma gasification projects that are springing up all over the world.

Ever since the incinerator project was introduced, the Environment Bureau has refused to budge from its insistence that it must be built, even with the change of leadership at the bureau. It also continues with the politically expedient reasons for locating the incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau rather than at Tsang Tsui near Tuen Mun. But it is clear to many people that if any progress is to be made on this, then some aspects of the plan have to be rethought. About 42 per cent of Hong Kong’s waste that goes to landfills is food waste and is between 70 and 90 per cent water.

Clear the Air chairman James Middleton has spoken to three engineers who say it is perfectly feasible for food waste to be shredded at source using garburators and disposed of down the drain and handled by the Stonecutters water treatment plant, which is currently operating at 50 per cent capacity. This idea has been incorporated into the thinking of the New Territories Concern Group, which, after visiting various waste treatment plants, including plasma gasification projects in Europe, produced a report supporting the use of plasma technology. The group is politically significant and includes Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who, in addition to being a former president of the Hong Kong Law Society, also has the distinction of having deposed Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat as chairman of the Tuen Mun Rural Committee.

In addition to its support for disposing of food waste at source, the report suggests gasification as a more mature and appropriate technology to meet Hong Kong’s present and future waste management needs. It recommends the establishment of one or more pilot plants to determine the suitability of gasification technology for Hong Kong. This approach would give Hong Kong considerable breathing space for it to take another look at the options available rather than its current approach, which is making little progress.

4 Jan 2014

Time Out Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s new Air Quality Health Index

written by Anna Cummings, posted on Time Out Hong Kong:

Hong Kong’s air quality is, put simply, bad. That’s not really news for those of us who have little choice but to breathe in our city’s sometimes pungently noxious atmosphere. The Hedley Environmental Index shows that only 50 days throughout last year were registered as ‘clear’ – that’s the lowest number in the past four years. More shockingly, around nine preventable deaths and more than 400 hospitalisations occur each day in the city as a devastatingly direct result of this pollution.

It’s a perfect time, then, for the introduction of the government’s brand new Air Quality Objectives and Air Quality Health Index, which replaces the Air Pollution Index. They came into force on January 1 as part of the the ongoing Clean Air Plan, which was introduced back in March last year. The new AQHI monitors concentrations of four major pollutants on a three-hour moving average and alerts residents to the potential health risks posed by the air on a scale ranging from one (low health risk) to 10+ (serious health risk). Our new, stricter, Air Quality Objectives replace ones that hadn’t been updated since 1987.

This is certainly a positive step for the current administration, which is promising to make our air a top priority in coming years. Earlier in 2013, it was announced that $10 billion will be set aside for the retirement of old diesel-powered vehicles, although this will take some years to come into full effect. A Hong Kong NGO, Clean Air Network, has tentatively welcomed the government’s new-found enthusiasm as ‘encouraging’, claiming that concern for the air was ‘rarely seen during the previous administration’.

However, the government continues to be lambasted for what many feel has been a continuously lacklustre response to our choking problem. Andrew Lai, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Department, has insisted that the AQHI will ‘provide more timely and useful air pollution information to the public’, with its accompanying mobile app providing residents with real-time pollution information. But others claim they would prefer to see more direct action. “It’s pointless having an index saying that you’re going to die,” asserts James Middleton, chairman of city charity Clear the Air. “What they should be doing is stopping the reasons that you’re going to die.”

The new AQHI app. (Time Out HK)

Melonie Chau, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth Hong Kong, agrees. “The change to the API system wasn’t the most urgent issue the public needed for the time being, because it’s no more than a tool to raise public awareness,” she says. “It’s not a measure to curb the problem.”Perhaps unsurprisingly, within only a few days of its launch, the AQHI reached levels of 10 or 10+ in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok, prompting the government to advise children and the elderly to remain indoors.

Many residents would be surprised to discover that marine vessels are the largest contributor to our air woes, rather than idling engines or power plants. To highlight this fact, take a glance at AQHI readings from the remote, vehicle-less island of Tap Mun, located near Mirs Bay in Shenzhen. The pollution there is frequently as high as roadside stations in Central or Causeway Bay. “Our winds are mainly from the east or northeast, for most of the year,” points out Middleton. “Tap Mun is shrouded in nitrogen oxides and sulphur all year… it’s covered in gunk. And that comes from the ships. The wind blows it there.”

Almost inconceivably, the sulphur emissions given off by just 16 ‘supercarrier’ cargo ships are equivalent to that of all the cars in the entire world. The sulphur content of the super-viscous, low-grade bunker fuel used by cargo ships is up to 2,000 times higher than that used in motor vehicles. With such boats trundling around our small territory, it’s hardly suspiring that there is a problem. Even worse, these ships are already carrying low-sulphur fuel – but they don’t use it here. Such fuel is required by law inside Emission Control Areas that are set within 200 nautical miles offshore of many countries in Europe and the Americas. But in Hong Kong, there is no such scheme.

“We have all these vessels going into Shenzhen – and all these vessels are polluting Hong Kong,” says Middleton. “But they’re doing nothing about it! The government just says the waters are under Chinese control. Well, go and speak to China about it then! [If there was an ECA], there’d be an immediate improvement in people’s health and in the whole situation in Hong Kong. But who owns the container ports in Shenzhen, in Hong Kong, in Yantian? Li Ka-shing! I wonder why they haven’t done anything?” The Clean Air Plan does acknowledge this issue, and has promised to ‘begin discussions… on the feasibility of mandating fuel switch for ocean going vessels berthed in Hong Kong’.


Xinhua: China’s most-polluted province faces enormous challenge

edited by Shen Qing, for Xinhua news:

Hebei, a northern region with the worst air in China, faces an enormous challenge in cleaning up its dirty air as data showed that little more than one third of all days last year met quality standards.

The air quality index (AQI) in 129 days, 35.3 percent of days in 2013, was below 100, Chen Guoying, director of the Hebei provincial bureau of environmental protection, told a local legislature on Wednesday.

The province, which surrounds the national capital Beijing, had 80 days, or 21.9 percent, of severe air pollution (AQI readings higher than 200), Chen said.

According to statistics published monthly by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Hebei is home to up to seven of the country’s top 10 polluted cities.

“Heavy smog hit at the time of the “two sessions” in 2013 and again this year,” said Liu Ronghua, a local political advisor, at a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the provincial people’s political consultative conference.

The “two sessions” refer to the annual meetings of the local legislature and political consultative conference.

“Smog has triggered a survival crisis and people are wondering where is suitable to live. Some are fleeing big cities to avoid the toxic air,” Liu said.

Hebei’s economy is dominated by highly polluting and energy guzzling heavy industries, which contributed to up to 77 percent of all emissions into the air, according to Chen.

The three sectors of steel, petrochemicals and construction materials account for half of its industrial output. Hebei churned out 180.5 million tonnes of steel last year, the largest among all provincial-level regions, Chen said.

To tackle the severe air pollution, the provincial government has banned approvals of new steel, cement, glass and nonferrous metal plants.

Meanwhile, it has pledged to cut its annual steel and cement production capacities by 60 million tonnes respectively by 2017 and to reduce its annual coal consumption by 40 million tonnes from 2012 levels under the same time frame.

To meet the targets, authorities will encourage mergers and acquisitions and order closures or use pricing reforms to prompt outdated facilities to shut down.

Hebei has entered a period of painful economic transition and the government will focus more on environmental protection and greener growth rather than on pure gross domestic product expansion, said Zhang Qingwei, governor of Hebei.

The central government is becoming more serious in tackling pollution as the choking air has become the target of growing discontent among urban residents.

In September, the State Council, or the Cabinet, signed air pollution control initiatives with six provinces and municipalities in north China, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shandong, in a coordinated effort to tackle severe air pollution.

8 Jan 2014

High PM2.5 on Sunday: Ocean-going vessels major culprit of HK air pollution

Hong Kong officials continue to legislate for switching out old diesel engines on road vehicles, singing their own praises and splashing public funds in the process. Yet Hong Kong’s air quality remains extremely poor – a simple look outside the window suffice to dissatisfy.

Air quality on a Sunday afternoon. PM2.5 readings are very high, at 150-170.

The number of vehicles on the roads on Sunday is the least in the week, in addition to the consideration of all the work that the officials proclaim to have done in reducing vehicles emissions. The PM2.5 particles, on the other hand, don’t lie. Their continued presence points to shipping emissions as the real major source of pollutants in Hong Kong.

The Northeasterlies at the Northeast brings emissions from Yantian; the Northwesterlies at the Northwest brings emissions from Shekou; Southerlies at the South brings emissions from ships passing through and into Hong Kong.

Hong Kong urgently needs to legislate and enforce an emissions control area for shipping. It remains to be seen if the city’s officials will take real action.

SCMP: Officials slammed for ‘cunning’ move to get funding for controversial landfill plans; ‘Sneaky’ plan for landfills is withdrawn

from Stuart Lau of the SCMP:

Officials stand accused of trying to get studies into controversial landfill expansion projects funded by putting them through an annual reserve fund that allows them to bypass lawmakers who oversee environmental affairs.

The government’s move comes half a year after environment minister Wong Kam-sing shelved its application to expand the Tseung Kwan O landfill amid strong opposition even among pro-government legislators.

The Environmental Protection Department is now applying to the Legislative Council’s public works subcommittee for an HK$8.8 million grant for a consultancy study on the design and construction of the Southeast New Territories landfill extension, according to Legco papers. (P5, P29-30)

The government’s two other plans to extend the Ta Kwu Ling and Tuen Mun dumps were also dashed last summer. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said afterwards that the government “can’t give up” extensions to all three dumps.

The Ta Kwu Ling extension would require HK$37.7 million, while a feasibility study of road access to the Tuen Mun site would need HK$29 million, the latest papers showed.

The three applications are part of a total application of HK$12.2 billion for government capital projects. They are due to be discussed on Friday.

But one pro-democracy lawmaker has described the move to combine the applications as “cunning”.

“The government is very cunning because it opted to withdraw the [Tseung Kwan O] application last year, but is now binding its reapplication in one go with about 30 other items which I’m not opposing,” said “super seat” lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood. “It has posed a difficult question to lawmakers like me.”

Fung said he had asked the Legco secretariat if it was possible to remove the three applications from the bundle, but the secretariat said there were no precedents of that having been done.

An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said the application was “in line with relevant procedures” as it was for the “necessary” preparatory work for the individual projects.

Sai Kung district councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan asked lawmakers to vote down the government application.

6 Jan 2014

from Ada Lee of the SCMP:

Attempts by the government to expand the city’s landfills suffered another setback yesterday after it was forced to withdraw funding applications in the Legislative Council.

The three applications for preparatory work on the expansion plans were part of a HK$12.2 billion reserve fund proposal to be voted on by the Legco Finance Committee.

Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Elizabeth Tse Man-yee and Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing withdrew the HK$27 million items before they were put to vote, citing controversies and misunderstanding.

Their move followed criticism by lawmakers that they were “sneaky” in trying to put the proposals through the annual reserve fund, enabling them to bypass legislators who oversee environmental affairs.

The government wants to expand the landfills in Tseung Kwan O, Ta Kwu Ling and Tuen Mun – which will all be full by 2019 – to take waste until a planned incinerator is ready.

Strong opposition forced Wong to shelve the Tseung Kwan O proposal in July, while legislators also decided to delay discussion of the Ta Kwu Ling and Tuen Mun plans.

Yesterday’s proposal sought funding for a consultancy study on the design and construction of the Tseung Kwan O landfill expansion, and compensation for acquiring land for the Ta Kwu Ling landfill. Wong said the cash would not be used until Legco approved the expansion plans.

The government also wanted to study the feasibility of improving roads leading to the Tuen Mun landfill, as requested by the district council. Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, also a Tuen Mun district councillor, said the government should have gotten approval from the district council before presenting the plans to Legco. “The pretext of the preparation work was that the expansion would go ahead, and that is not agreed by the district council,” he said.

Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party, said the government’s move was inappropriate. “If we passed these items, but then the landfill expansions could not go ahead, it would be a waste of public resources,” he said.

Lawmakers also wanted the government to withdraw another item for the proposed incinerator, but Tse said the study had already begun so they could no longer take it away. It was passed together with other applications.

Wong said the studies did not mean the expansions would go ahead. “We still need to submit our proposals to Legco,” he said. “The lawmakers raised their opposition too late, making communication difficult.”

He said he did not expect such controversies and the withdrawal was for the “overall interest”, as other items in the reserve fund proposal could be stalled if it was not passed. “We included the items in the proposal according to existing mechanisms. I’m surprised it sparked controversy.”

The government would continue to talk to district councils and submit an overall waste management plan to Legco before March, Wong said.

11 Jan 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.

PRWeb: Diesel fuel instead of Landfills

Nashville, Tennessee – Hydrocore, Inc. is contracting with Pilot Travel Centers to purchase diesel fuel produced from an East Tennessee County waste using its proprietary plasma arc gasification technology. Hydrocore’s Elemental Recovery process utilizes the source material to make products and offers any municipality a single source, waste disposal solution.

The Hydrocore Elemental Recovery process addresses the four critical issues of sustainable energy use: climate change, dependence on foreign resources, wealth drain and depletion of fossil fuel resources. The Company has validated its technology over the course of its 12-year history, first at a small-scale (5 tons per day) pilot plant that was sold to Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute in 2000 and in commercial implementations for other industrial clients.

In their first commercial facility called Misty Mountain Resource Recovery (“MMRR”), Hydrocore has contracted with the County to take all their municipal solid waste and to create a reuse and recycling system. Using Hydrocore’s proprietary technology, the MMRR facility will produce diesel fuel that is cost-competitive with petroleum-based products without subsidies. MMRR is permitted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and has begun its Front-End Engineering & Design for the $140 million project.

Hydrocore will provide Pilot Travel Centers approximately 13 million gallons per year of diesel fuel. In addition to the transportation fuel from a proven Gas-to-Liquid (“GTL”) process, the continuous system will recommodify all minerals and metals using its proprietary plasma separation and gasification technology. Hydrocore’s process is enclosed from input waste to output products, which recycles the usual wastes back into the system making any issues with disposal insignificant.

About Hydrocore, Inc.

Hydrocore, Inc., a Nashville, Tennessee clean energy company offers any municipality a single source, waste disposal solution. Hydrocore has developed proprietary technology to process organic and inorganic solids, gases and liquids into clean energy products, fuels and industrial commodities.

18 Dec 2013

WMW: Combined gasification and plasma project in UK receives planning permission

from Waste Management World:

Birmingham, UK – Planning permission has been granted for a waste to energy facility that will use gasification and plasma technology to generate 6MW from waste.

As part of the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) competition to design an economically viable waste to energy demonstrator plant, Advanced Plasma Power (APP) will be providing its Gasplasma technology for the new development in Tyseley, Birmingham.

This project is part of APP’s roll out of its technology following operating experience at a demonstration plant in Swindon.

Supported by Birmingham City Council, the design phase of the project will come to a close in early 2014. This will be followed by the construction phase and the date of 2015 has been slated for operational testing.

APP’s technology combines the two processes of gasification and plasma treatment to produce a syngas. This syngas exits the plasma converter to be cooled and conditioned through wet and dry scrubbers before being used directly in a power island. This comprises reciprocating gas engines or gas turbines to generate renewable energy.

Residual heat is also recovered from the process to be used in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) mode within the process itself as well as for other users in the vicinity.

Feedstock for the facility will be residual household and commercial black-bag waste.

16 Dec 2013

SCGI: Top 10 Facts about the Plasma Gasification of Municipal Solid Wastes

from the Science Council for Global Initiatives:

The scoop: Plasma is a collection of charged particles that respond to an electromagnetic field (think lightning and the sun). In Florida and California, cities are looking at ways to use plasma to obliterate garbage and use the heat to generate power. But initial plans in Florida to build the largest plasma arc gasification plant in the world have been scaled back by about 80 percent. And in Sacramento, the proposed plant has been put on hold because of a lack of details about just how much electricity would be produced and how much trash would be gasified by plasma. But why were folks looking into plasma in the first place? Expert Louis Circeo gives a list of his top 10 reasons for zapping garbage with plasma.

1. It reduces the need for landfills.
Sometimes called “artificial lightning,” plasma can have temperatures that can exceed 7,000 degrees centigrade — that’s three times hotter than fossil fuels and hotter than the surface of the sun.

The plasma arc would instantly convert organic materials into synthetic gas, often called “syngas,” and melt inorganic materials, which when cooled, become rock-like and can be sold as construction materials. With no remaining waste to deal with, landfills become obsolete.

2. Existing landfills could be mined for energy.
In many regions of the United States, it would be more cost-effective to take municipal solid waste to a plasma gasification plant for energy production than to dump it in a landfill. When plasma gasification is fully developed, even existing landfills could be economically mined for energy production, environmental cleanup and land reuse.

3. It’s energy efficient.
Plasma gasification of 1 ton of average municipal solid wastes would send about 815 Kilowatt-hours of electricity to the grid. This is 20 to 50 percent more electricity to the grid than any other emerging thermal waste-to-energy technology. In addition, this amount of power is over six times the electricity required to conduct the plasma gasification process.

4. It’s working in other countries.
Since 2002, two commercial waste-to-energy plasma gasification plants have been operating successfully in Japan. The Mihama-Mikata facility processes 24 tons of municipal sold waste and 4 tons of sewage sludge per day, producing steam and hot water for local use. The Utashinai plant processes up to 300 tons per day of waste and/or automobile shredder residue. This facility produces up to 7.9 Megawatts of electricity, of which 3.6 MW are used to run the plasma torches and the plant, and up to 4.3 MW are sent to the electrical power grid. In Ottawa, Canada, people are evaluating a demonstration facility that is currently processing 94 tons of waste per day, sending 4 MW of power to the grid.

5. It could produce ethanol fuel.
If all the municipal solid waste in the United States was processed by plasma gasification, over 5 percent of the U.S. electrical energy requirements could be produced. This amount of power is equal to the amount of hydropower produced in the United States, or equal to about 25 nuclear power plants. Similarly, the 2007 U.S. Energy Act recommends that “garbage” be used to replace edible foods such as corn to produce ethanol. It was estimated that waste could produce up to 30 percent of the 36 billion gallons of ethanol required by the year 2022.

6. It could produce the most renewable energy.
Plasma processing of municipal solid waste in the United States has the potential to create more renewable energy than the projected energy from solar, wind, landfill gas and geothermal energies combined.

7. It’s clean burning.
Because of the high temperatures, the low volume of gas emissions and the dissociation of organic compounds, gaseous emissions from plasma waste processes are much cleaner than from other kinds of gasification or incineration processes.

8. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
In landfills, garbage produces methane, a greenhouse gas. But if that garbage were sent to a plasma gasification facility, it would not have a chance to produce methane. What’s more, the energy generated could replace energy made at a coal-fired plant. In fact, for every ton of municipal solid waste sent to a plasma gasification facility for power production, 2 tons of CO2 emissions could be reduced from the atmosphere.

9. It gasifies more than garbage.
At least 15 companies in the United States and Canada are actively developing plasma gasification projects. In addition to municipal solid waste, the plants will process industrial waste, biomass, coal, coke and other carbonaceous materials. The plants will produce electricity as well as ethanol, methanol, diesel fuel, hydrogen and other syngas-based fuel products. Construction on some of these facilities is expected to begin in 2009.

10. It has a future.
Plasma gasification could play even more important roles in the fields of clean coal gasification, secondary oil recovery, and oil shale and tar sands recovery processes. Truly. Plasma gasification is an incipient environmental blockbuster, ready to leap ahead of current concepts of waste disposal, energy production and environmental cleanup.

Dr. Louis J. Circeo is a principal research scientist and director of plasma research at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He has been involved with plasma technology research since 1971, and holds five U.S. patents relating to plasma technology applications.

Discovery Channel Online; December 2008