RM612 million plasma arc plant not environmentally safe

‘Proof, not promises’ sought over energy plant
Fauwaz Abdul Aziz
May 9, 07 4:40pm
Malaysiakini

Barely having breathed a sigh of relief after the Broga mega-incinerator proposal was aborted, activists believe they are up against another potential environmental disaster in the waste-to-energy facility planned in Sungai Udang, Malacca.

In the wake of a report that a RM612 million plant has been proposed by Melaka Waste to Energy Sdn Bhd (MwtE), they have demanded proof – not promises – of environmental safety and cost-efficiency. 

“The technology provider for the Broga incinerator had made similar claims. They could not substantiate their claims when challenged,” said DAP’s non-governmental organisations bureau chief Ronnie Liu in reference to Japanese engineering firm Ebara Corp.

“Why should we believe MWtE?”

Liu was among activists involved in the four-year campaign against the massive incinerator planned for Kampung Broga in Semenyih, Selangor. Although said to have been scrapped, residents are awaiting the government’s formal announcement. 

MWtE and its partner Green Energy and Technology Sdn Bhd (GET) have claimed that their state-of-the-art ‘plasma arc’ technology is 100 percent environmentally safe

It said that – unlike ‘conventional’ incinerators – the plant will not release toxins and carcinogenic secondary products such as furans and dioxins or hazardous ashes.

Liu, however, said no one can claim ‘zero’ emission of toxic gases.

“The company has to prove this to us instead of assuring us with so-called facts and figures from the technology provider,” he added.

Claims challenged

Backing him, US-based Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice executive director Bradley Angel challenged MWtE to show a similar facility or model that has not emitted pollutants into the air, land or water.

“My research and understanding of the technology has proven without a doubt that the claims of ‘no pollution’ simply cannot be accurate. Every plasma and gasification plant that has emissions data shows toxic emissions, often contradicting the public relations claims of the companies that they have no pollution,” said Bradley in an e-mail interview.

“It is impossible to completely destroy and eliminate all waste being fed into a plasma arc facility without pollution, unless you are a skilled magician, which no one is.”

Based on GET’s own concept paper, the MWtE facility admittedly does release ‘exhaust gases’ into the atmosphere, pointed out Bradley who claims 21 years’ experience in organising on the issue.

“You cannot claim you have a completely closed system AND admit there are exhaust gases and these are ‘released to the environment’. It is one or the other, not both. Clearly by their admission there is burning, combustion and releases to the environment,” he said.

Citing Greenaction’s experience with a plasma arc technology company in the US, Bradley said Integrated Environmental Technologies’ president Jeffrey Surma had in a public hearing18 months ago admitted that its claims of having a ‘closed-loop system’ and of being pollution-free were untrue.

“Greenaction challenges (MWtE) to prove that they can do what no other company anywhere has been able to do: destroy waste with no emissions. We guarantee that if properly tested the proposed facility would have some level of toxic pollutants,” said Bradley.

He also questioned claims that the MWtE facility would produce sufficient electrical energy for sale to local utility companies, third-party users and to run on its own generated energy.

Citing a meeting late last month with Ebara plant managers at the Nagareyama facility in Chiba prefecture, Japan, Bradley said his research has shown that companies using similar technologies are not self sufficient.

“Ebara had made the same claims in its advertisements, whereas they admitted (in the meeting) that they import electricity and use large amounts of kerosene to power their allegedly self-sufficient plant,” he said.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), meanwhile, said it is alarmed to learn of proposal to build the plasma arc incineration facility in Malacca.

“CAP is saddened to note that, despite the lack of public support for incineration technologies as was demonstrated by the…Broga project, the government has decided not to heed the sentiments of its citizenry,”said its president SM Mohamed Idris in a statement.

“CAP urges the public particularly, residents of Malacca and the state government to fully scrutinise and reconsider this extremely costly and polluting project which will clearly be a threat to public health and safety and reject it.

“Investment into waste management technologies that are safe, clean, green and generate renewable energy is the way forward to a more sustainable environment while protecting public health.”

4 Responses to “RM612 million plasma arc plant not environmentally safe”

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  2. Carol Horner Says:

    Your commentators about incineration plants are absolutely correct – they are not safe and rather than help the environment add to the problems through the discharge of POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) both to the atmosphere and to the ground. And in the instance for this project for Kuala Lumpur an added disadvantage is that it would also produce a residual highly Toxic Ash product (which would be at least 40% of the original mass of the waste because of the high water content it contains) which would then need disposing of to a secured Toxic Ash land fill site..
    As was reported some time ago when the Broga project for Kuala Lumpur was formally and finally abandoned by the Government of Malaysia (that was a very good and sensible decision for them) on financial grounds how timely was that decision for the World Recession followed just 12 months later. Had this been agreed the Malaysian Government would have been steam-roller ed into accepting a waste treatment process that would be around for 35 years and more, and one which would be continually capturing money from the Government (sorry Tax Payers) for a service that would for ever need updating (at the Governments’s cost) to meet ever higher standards on emission control – a process that has been ongoing ever since these ‘incineration plants’ were first used.
    I can recollect that shortly before the abandonment of the proposal your Press in Malaysia was alerted to the fact that a Company under the name Genesyst from the UK had proposed an alternative of converting the Residual Waste in Kuala Lumpur to the Transport Fuel (Biofuel) Ethanol and that they could do that in Malaysia for around a third of the cost of the proposed US$620 million incineration project, and the fuel produced from the plant could exceed two hundred million of litres of ethanol per year and that this could either be used within Malaysia as a substitute for gasoline (or even sold to places like China or Japan/Korea!).
    Well let it not be said that this isn’t real!
    Let me remind you that this same company Genesyst is shortly to start work on a project like this in the UK in Yorkshire and one in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City Vietnam for less than this. Further more they are also working on a project in Holland Ireland Kentucky and Hawaii as well and also beyond doing exactly the same. This is not rocket science the procedures they are using dates back to the early 19th century. Read the paper parented by the Genesyst team in the Institution of Chemical Engineers March 2008 with the title UnderPressureUnderGround to verify this.
    Kuala Lumpur as a City Government you must not miss out here. Your inaction on Your part is holding you back, You have nothing to lose here and with Petronas around as a potential buyer of the fuel you cannot lose.
    Kuala Lumpur do not lose out here your residents and those who fought the Broga issue expect you to act positively here before your defaulting actions drive you in to an election issue and you and the Government lose out again.

  3. Karel Says:

    Isn’t marvellous that one after another companies come forward with incineration plants (Incenerator/Gassifier/PlasmaArc) systems expecting we the public to believe the proposers. Frankly we as the Public are fed up with the lies being pepetrated by the companies about how these plants are so clean.

    They are not.

    They give off Toxic Gases.

    They make a Toxic End Product.

    Every few years the Environmental and Public Health offices of Governmenrs around the World add further controls o these plants in the light of real evidence as to their existing environmental records and the result is a tightening up of emissions and waste control adding hundresd and thousands of milions of Dollars to the operations and running costs of these plants which we the public end up paying. Let’s move on away from these outdated and unwanted yesterday’s technology processes in to the new world.

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