Plasco and the problem with plasma gasification

Plasco and the problem with plasma gasification
Posted on September 2, 2013 | JP Unger | Written on August 27, 2013
Letter type:

Dear Councillor McRae,

In light of a rejection of garbage incineration as a possibility for Ottawa, which reportedly you expressed at last Thursday's environment committee and which may well be shared by other councillors and the Mayor, it may be helpful to have a point clarified in regards to the extension of the Plasco agreement deadline coming to a Council vote.

But first, I would like to commend a stand against garbage incineration, and as a resident would like to express my support for the rejection of incineration as a preferred means for disposing of our un-recyclable solid waste.

The key point I would like to convey is that, put plainly and contrary to what I found many persons in our city seem to believe, the "plasma gasification" process IS in fact a form of garbage incineration: the process is based on burning garbage, albeit with some technology applied in the process to try to squeeze out some of the energy that is normally wasted outright in, say, an open pit burning.

Colloquially speaking, plasma is hot, electrically charged gas, and what this process would do is use a continuous electric charge (an "electric arc" -like a giant, constant spark plug) to burn garbage in a contained medium, so the resulting gases -some of which would be electrically charged because of the electric ignition- in turn would: a) heat something directly, and/or b) be ignited further to get some more energy out of that reaction. Put plainly, this would be achieved by containing momentarily the initial emissions of the burned garbage, and getting some of the gases to burn further and use the resulting heat.

The really big problem with it is, as in any form of incineration, the inevitable discharge of very toxic pollutants into the air. Carbon monoxide is among the least problematic: a very wide range of highly toxic pollutants have been identified in the emissions from this process. A system of 'dampers' which blow water or steam along a smokestack to try to 'precipitate' as much residue as possible to the bottom of a stack cannot be expected to fully control toxic emissions -much would escape, not just as microparticles, but also as gases.

The process in question is more sophisticated than burning in an open pit, but it does boil down to burning garbage -garbage incineration- with very toxic air pollutants resulting from it. And there would also be toxic solid waste resulting from this, though we have not heard much on how that would be handled safely, particularly if its handling is costly and not the focus of a for-profit venture centred on burning garbage for limited, hopeful energy production.

With many thanks and best wishes,

J. P. Unger
Orleans, Ottawa

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Stan Stricklans

In fact this process does NOT incinerate the garbage. Incineration is a chemical process. The Plasma created and used in this process is actually the exact inverse of a chemical process, producing base elements, not chemicals. The percentage and quality of contaminants in this process, will be known and managed, as opposed to any current alternatives already in use which polute in one way or another with 100% of the massive volumes of waste.

How can there really be any question of comparison, or hesitation and delay? The environment needs this solution now