US firm eyes 3 plasma gas-powered plants in Mindanao

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 2 Aug) – A company based in Texas in the United States has proposed to build a synthetic gas fueled power plant in Bukidnon that will convert about 500 to 1,000 tons a day of local solid waste to generate power.

Provincial board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. told MindaNews Wednesday the proposed plant, one of three in Mindanao and 10 in the country eyed by Quantum International, is said to address local solid waste disposal and power supply problems. The two other plants proposed in Mindanao are in Surigao and Davao.

Last March, the firm announced they plan to close the deal with local government units for 5 of 10 plants within the year.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan has initially heard the firm’s proposal in today’s regular session. Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. has called Bukidnon’s 20 municipal and two city mayors to be present at the session. Only 16 of the mayors made it to the session, including Malaybalay Mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri.

Al Johnson, board chair and chief executive officer of the firm, said in the firm’s letter of intent sent in October that they are willing to fund, construct, and operate an integrated plasma gasifying facility in a still unidentified site in the province. But back then, Johnson cited they proposed to build a 2,000-ton capacity plant in the province.

Plasma gasification facilities apply heat to waste to produce combustible gas which in turn is used to fuel electric turbines. Output is seen to bring down power costs for the country. Furthermore, the use of industrial, commercial and household waste to produce electricity and alternative fuels will also help local government units phase out gradually landfills and improve sanitation, according to a report posted on betterphils.blogspot.com.

The company is looking at investing at least $250 million to $850 million for each plant, which is enough to cover operation of a plant capable of processing 5,000 tons of garbage.

Board member Jay Albarece of Bukidnon’s first district said they are looking at the province’s waste volume capacity for their target plant capacity. But he noted that the proposal is still in the drawing board.

“The firm still needs to get the nod of the national government,” he added.

But Beltran said via telephone provincial board members welcomed the project because it does not entail any counterpart on the local governments.

In March the company announced they are putting up 10 plasma gasification plants to address the growing volume of municipal and industrial solid wastes and the expected power supply shortage in the Philippines.

Johnson was quoted by Manila reporters that the capacity of each plant to process and treat wastes might differ depending on the volume and quality of garbage that would be brought to the site.

Johnson said his company could put up plasma plants that could treat 1,000 to 5,000 tons of garbage.

He said they aim to close the deal for 5 of the 10 proposed plants within 2012 to process a combined 13,000 tons of garbage. Aside from those eyed in Mindanao, they also eyed one each in Bataan and another in the Visayas this year.

Johnson said they expect governments to be able to see the value of the technology, which is said to address not only garbage disposal problems but also power supply concerns.

Albarece said Johnson explained that processing 1,000 tons of wastes could generate 1,000 megawatts and thus, his planned portfolio for the first five facilities would be able to generate as much as 13,000 MW.

Albarece said that while Quantum is open to partnership arrangements with local companies, he quoted Johnson as saying they had the technical and financial capacity to do so.

But Albarece said the problem is volume of garbage as 1,000 tons a day is a lot of solid waste.

Albarece cited that the firm operates two plasma plants in Japan with lower capacity but added none of it yet in the Philippines. He said local energy firms in Japan later took over the plants.

Beltran said the firm assured that the plant will have zero emission when he asked for its environmental impact. But he admitted that it has to be proven as the firm still has to apply with national regulatory bodies. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

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