The Future of Waste: EDMC proposes plasma gasification to generate water and green energy from refuse

EDMC proposes plasma gasification to generate water and green energy from refuse

The East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) has come up with an innovative plan to generate water and green energy from waste. In order to reduce the burden on the Ghazipur landfill, EDMC has engaged Singapore-based AG Dauters Waste Processing Private Limited to generate energy and water from trash. However, the impact of this proposed waste-to-energy (WtE) plant and its role in addressing the waste management problem will depend on its timely and effective implementation.

Background and project details

There are three WtE plants in Delhi, located in Ghazipur, Bawana and Okhla. Of the 10,050 tonnes per day (tpd) of waste generated in the capital, only 55 per cent (5,755 tonnes) is treated every day at these plants. The remaining is either dumped in sanitary landfills or is crudely littered. This inefficiency in handling waste stems from the municipal authority’s inability to carry out proper segregation, transportation and storage of waste. In addition, there is a lack of expertise in modern methods of waste treatment. To address this problem, in August 2018, the city corporation signed an agreement with AG Dauters for converting waste to energy at the 29 acre Ghazipur landfill. The project will be implemented in a phased manner. As per the agreement, Phase I will be implemented on a pilot basis. Under Phase I, the solid waste management plant will be able to convert 200 tpd of waste into 55 MW of green power, 30 kilolitres per day (kld) of purified water and 30 kld of fuel.

One of the most distinguishing features of the project is that it will deploy plasma gasification technology for the generation of waste energy. The garbage will be ground to make slurry and water will be taken out of it. The remains will be broken down to generate green fuel and electricity. Moreover, it is the first-of-its kind project that will create fuel with zero-carbon emissions and zero residue. The civic body will review its performance for a year, based on which it may extend the agreement for 21 years. If implemented, the plant will be able to generate 560 MW of electricity by processing 1,500 tonnes of waste.

Challenges and the way forward

Despite the push from ongoing programmes like the Swachh Bharat Mission, the waste treatment segment faces several impediments including funding constraints. Urban local bodies spend anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per tonne on waste management. Of this, 60-70 per cent is spent on waste collection and the remaining on transporting the collected waste to dumpyards. The lack of adequate space for dumping the collected waste is another challenge. Further, the adoption of new WtE technologies has been slow due to their high cost and the lack of technical expertise to handle them.

While the upcoming WtE plant at Ghazipur is a step in the right direction, a lot still needs to be done. Going forward, project implementation could lose steam if issues such as lack of credible data systems, poor financial health of city corporations, slow adoption of technologies and involvement of multiple agencies are not addressed in a time-bound manner.