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Posted by: Jim Elve 7/4/2007 10:54 AM

A few weeks ago, I watched some interesting videos at Green Energy TV. A video from Startech Environmental Corp.describes what seems to be a win-win technology. The plasma converter turns municipal waste (garbage, sewage, etc.) into a clean-burning gas that can be used as a multi-purpose fuel. At a time when Toronto's trash is being shipped to Michigan and cities across North America struggle with waste disposal and energy shortage problems, this technology bears some serious consideration. In light of PM Harper's EcoEnergy funding announcements, the provinces are in a position to think outside the landfill/coal-generator/nuclear box.

I had mentally bookmarked the plasma converter promotional video and thus, was interested when I caught this press release from Startech:

Startech Environmental Plasma Converters to Be Installed In Resource Recovery and Energy Center In Chitre, Panama

WILTON, Conn., Jan. 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Startech Environmental Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: STHK), a fully reporting company, announced today that on January 26, 2007, its associate, Sicmar International Panama S.A. signed the contract with the City of Chitre, Panama securing the land and the waste contract for a 200 ton-per-day Sicmar Plasma Converter Facility. The new Resource Recovery and Energy Center in Chitre is in addition to the recently announced City of David contract and also in addition to the 200 ton- per-day Las Tablas, Panama contract. The Chitre Center will be processing the region's municipal solid waste and also producing "green electrical power." The public signing ceremonies in Chitre, attended by federal and local government officials, were widely covered and publicized by the nation's media.

Victor Sziky, President of Sicmar International, said, "Panama is a member of the Basel Convention on hazardous waste, a ratifier of the Kyoto Protocols along with other international environmental treaties. Panama is leading the way in the Western Hemisphere in its environmental stewardship, and the government views these projects as an opportunity for it to begin to align itself with its environmental commitments. The growing support for these projects by the municipalities in Panama is now evident by this third new contract.
(Full press release)

In accessing that press release, I noticed that Startech is no Johnny-come-lately to the green energy cause. The archive of previous press releases goes back over ten years. In 2004, Startech was a winner of the Wall Street Journal's "Best and Brightest" award. In 2003, the company received a $500,000 grant from the US federal government. In 2006, they got another $413,000 in federal funding.

The company's website gives details of how the process works. Here's a sample of their FAQ page:

Q: What are the principal by-products of the system?
A: The two principal byproducts of the Plasma Converter are a synthesis fuel gas called PCG ™ and an obsidian-like stone, which is non-toxic and non-leachable. Both are commodity products that offer the customer revenue potential. The PCG can be directly used for plant heating or cooling, to make electricity, or to desalinate water, as well as other uses. Additionally, the PCG can be used to make hydrogen or methanol. The obsidian-like stone can be sold to the construction and abrasives industries.
Q: Does the system create any kind of emissions?
A: When the gas is used as a feedstock, no stack is necessary as all commodity byproducts are recycled for further use. PCG is similar to natural gas when used to generate steam (ie. Boiler) or energy (ie. Microturbine).
Q: Can the Plasma Converter generate its own power for processing?
A: Yes, for most carbonaceous waste streams, enough PCG is produced to run a motor generator set or turbine to produce the electricity needed to run the system plus some residual electricity that can be put back into the electrical grid or sold to others. This electric generation capability is especially important for remote areas or where the cost of electricity is particularly high or availability is limited.
(All FAQ's)

My question may be less frequently asked. Can existing coal generators, like Nanticoke TGS, be converted to burn plasma conversion gas? A "yes" to that would make this a win-win-win.

As the provinces assume responsibility for the disbursement of the new ecoEnergy Fund, plasma conversion should be fully investigated and if found to be as green and effective as Startech's promotional material suggests, implemented as at least part of the shift to renewable fuels and energy sources. Besides, what proud Canadian wants Canada to take a back seat to Panama when it comes to "leading the way in the Western Hemisphere in ...environmental stewardship"?

Posted by Jim Elve

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Comments (5)   Add Comment
Re: Outside the Box: Plasma Converters Turn Trash into Energy    By Janet Fraser on 7/4/2007 11:10 AM
I absolutely agree Jim . If this conversion can take place at Nanticoke it is a win -win., This is the kind of new thinking that needs to take place and our government officials need to be made aware of these possibilities. All options need to be explored before a decision is made to build a new nuclear facility.

Re: Outside the Box: Plasma Converters Turn Trash into Energy    By Donald J. Lester on 7/31/2007 2:43 PM
I think all of these ideas are excellent...the real issue here is the degree this issue is so political. The exaggerations, on the many sides get the attention, resulting in a no win for anyone. If the political rhetoric was minimized we might discover that a combination of alternatives as mentioned above, including nuclear may be need to provide reasonable long term viable energy.
We just need to look to the not to distant past into how
Ontario Hydro was handled....Personally I don't expect this situation to be any different....
thats my view....

Re: Outside the Box: Plasma Converters Turn Trash into Energy    By David Velasquez on 7/12/2008 4:57 PM
Any notion that Startech can produce a commercially viable unit is nonsense. They guy running the show in Panama (Victor Sziky a.ka. Victurd Sziky is a fly by night N.Y. con man.

Re: Outside the Box: Plasma Converters Turn Trash into Energy    By jason sammut on 9/8/2008 1:27 PM
i was flipping through tv channels one day and cam across a mississauga eviroments meeting and the british "expert" was saying its not possible. I don't know if he even read the report by the way he was arguing his point but, if we are going to move forward then we can't be listening to poeple that don't know a dam thing about what they are talking about! In highschool i was exceptional at physics and math and i can tell you that there are lots of ways to accomplish the same ends we just need to invest the time and money. unfortunetly the people at the top (gas companys, and sell out,s like bush) are not helping.(p.s. i am canadian) If we as a nation want to chang our ways we have to vote that way the liberals and cosevitives are old school partys that are incapable to change. so that leaves us with 3 options. the action party which are mostly pro civil wrights, the ndp kind of everthing party, and the green party the other end all enviorment pic. personal i think the ndp has the best opertunity but, they have holes that can turn them into what the liberals and consevitives have become. money changes people and we need to find leaders that will do what needs to be done.

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