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January 6th, 2014:

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

HK academics form panic-pressure group to push for incineration, hide dangers in backseat

A group of academics and professionals has now melded their minds with the stubborn ones of Hong Kong officials, pushing for the building of an incinerator for the treatment of the city’s waste.

Representative statements include “We need to act now, or this will end with rubbish piling up on the streets,” from Professor Poon Chi-sun of Polytechnic University’s civil and environmental engineering department, and “Decision makers need to find the most sensible choice – can we take the risk of having so much uncertainty when we have thousands of tonnes of rubbish to handle?” from Professor Irene Lo Man-chi, of the University of Science and Technology’s department of civil and environmental engineering.

The most sensible thing to do, of course, is to first retain composure, lest such voices of panic pressures Hong Kong into making a disastrous decision just for the sake of having to ‘act now’.

A look at their statements reveal aspects meant to mislead and hoodwink audiences. Poon, for example, says, “We have strong reservations about the proposal to double the size of the Tuen Mun landfill, especially when incineration could effectively reduce the volume of waste by up to 90 per cent.” Retailers also attract customers by offering discounts “up to 90 per cent”, when most of the discounts never come close. In the case of incineration, 30% of incinerated waste ends up as toxic fly ash – requiring more landfills and leaving even deadlier pollution than conventional landfilling of waste.

In discussing plasma technology, Lo is reported to have said that problems with plasma technology had led to the closure of a 10-year-old plant in Japan, which had been down for two-thirds of that time. These problems are, in fact, not technical, but a matter of business dealings – in a country with thousands of incinerators, the plasma plant had to close “due to lack of feedstock (loss of long term feed contracts).” Incinerators are both waste treatment and business, and they require feedstock and fuels to remain operational; it is not surprising that the plasma plant couldn’t compete with an established industry over feedstock supplies. Lo’s statement, however, makes it easy to mislead readers over the exact nature of the cited case.

Lo also said the technology had been proved to be a reliable option that was safe in terms of emissions, syncing her opinion with the ‘proven technology’ refrain of Hong Kong officials. ‘Reliable’ is a very attractive word for the public, but it is unclear what exactly is meant when incineration is ‘reliable’. Having the ability to reduce the mass and increase the toxicity of the materials going to landfills does not seem to fit the idea of ‘reliable’. Incinerator accidents in Guangzhou and Shanghai shows that incinerators are not necessarily accident-free ‘reliable’; U.S. regulatory agencies have also found that incinerators are prone to various types of malfunctions, system failures and breakdowns, which routinely lead to serious air pollution control problems and increased emissions that are dangerous to public health. What is ‘reliable’ about incineration is its ‘reliable’ business opportunity for the operator and its beneficiaries, and its ‘reliable’ demand for feedstocks and fuel, which actively discourages recycling efforts and increases consumption of fossil fuel.

Likewise, ‘safe’ also makes for attractive reading, but ‘safe emissions’ has no real meaning other than to indicate a high level of control over the emissions of pollutants. Emissions that are captured are actually re-released into the environment as ash or sludge after treatment, in even higher concentration of toxicity. Meanwhile, ultra-fine toxic particles such as dioxins can still escape emissions control and seriously endanger human health.

The stubborn attitude displayed by Hong Kong officials over incineration has always been frustrating, but it is especially worrying that academics and professionals – people walking around with an air of credibility – is choosing to join in and support a move that will endanger the future of Hong Kong’s waste management, environment, and the health of its citizens. It is imperative, therefore, that Hong Kong citizens recognize the panic pressure that they are trying to generate, and the shrewd sales language that they use in trying to cajole the public into accepting incineration.

The issue was reported by Cheung Chi-fai of the SCMP.