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January, 2012:

Biofuel from waste – Government ignored the plasma arc solution – yet major airlines have signed with Solena

SCMP Letters 29 Jan 2012

Cathay faces logistical problem

The article by Reinhard Renneberg (“Biofuels an idea that can really fly for airlines”, January 22) makes interesting reading.

He makes the proposal that algae should be used to produce biofuel oils.

The advantage appears to be that it is not only a cheaper source but is more plentiful than other crops, such as corn and sugar cane, and will not impact upon the food chain.

As the article points out, the airlines’ thirst for fuel should not deprive the hungry people of this world of basic food items.

Algae would appear to provide the ideal biofuel source, and an earlier report states that Cathay Pacific (SEHK: 0293) is preparing not only to use a biofuel additive, but also to become a producer of biofuel and other derivatives (“Cathay pins hopes on biofuels”, October 24).

The question is what type of organic crop would the company use, and where would it be possible to site its production line.

Assuming it went for algae, it can be grown in any type of water, even sea water or waste water. And of course land would be required to build a refinery and oil storage tanks.

The airline is then faced with the problem of whether suitable land and a large expanse of water can readily be found in Hong Kong.

If Cathay Pacific is really intent on going into the biofuel business, it is likely it would have to look at a location on the mainland. If its choice is algae, then a large expanse of water would also be a prime requirement.

Algae or otherwise, it seems obvious that the airline industry will have to look to the introduction of biofuels in an effort to reduce its carbon Footprint. And it is something that should be tackled as soon as possible, before higher costs, such as the European Union’s levy of a carbon tax add to the airlines’ costs, place an even higher burden on the travelling public.

Gordon Andreassend, Aerospace Forum

Download PDF : EIA 201.2011 – Comments from Solena Fuels (Dec 15 2011)-1

Can solar power help shipping go green?

Solar Birdie comes into dock

ferries passengers to a golf course on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, comes into dock

From a distance, the yellow-and-blue ferry docking at the pier resembles the scores of other vessels that hop between Hong Kong’s outlying islands and the peninsula every day.

Continue reading the main story

But a closer look as passengers disembark, reveals a grid of gleaming solar panels on the ferry’s roof and, instead of the usual throbbing engine noise, there is a barely audible buzz.

The Solar Eagle and three similar vessels shuttle golfers to tee off on an 18-hole island course. Together they form the world’s first hybrid powered ferry fleet and a commercial proving ground for technology that could transform the future of marine travel.

The technology, similar to that used in hybrid cars, has been developed by an Australian company called Solar Sailor.

Electricity created by the solar panels and stored in a battery powers the engine while the vessel comes in and out of the harbour. Once out in the open ocean and a faster clip is required, the diesel kicks in.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

I think in 50 to 100 years, all ships will have solar sails”

End Quote Robert Dane Solar Sailor

One of the fleet, the Solar Albatross, sports two sails covered in solar panels that can be raised to harness both the sun and the wind to further reduce reliance on fossil fuel.

Robert Dane, Solar Sailor’s founder, says that the technology offers ship owners huge fuel savings and has the potential to be used on all types of vessels from humble ferries and luxury super-yachts to bulk carriers shipping iron ore and navy patrol ships.

“I think in 50 to 100 years, all ships will have solar sails,” he says.

“It just makes so much sense. You’re out there on the water and there’s so much light bouncing around and there’s a lot more energy in the wind than in the sun.”

Teething problems

Three of the ferries began operation in 2010 and the Solar Albatross began carrying passengers last year. The solar-sail technology is also in use in two ferries in Shanghai and Sydney.

Solar panels help power the world’s first fleet of hybrid ferries in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Jockey Club, which runs the golf course on Kau Sai Chau island, says its has seen “significant fuel savings” but was still monitoring the overall performance of the ferries.

Mr Dane says that on the golf course-run, the hybrid technology saves 8% or 17% on the fuel bill, depending on the route taken. However, repair and maintenance costs have been more than anticipated.

“The Jockey Club is a new operator so there’s a learning curve for them and the new technology,” he says.

Despite the teething problems, Mr Dane is confident of future sales.

He says he is in the “early stages” of discussions with the operators of Hong Kong’s iconic star ferry, which has been shuttling across Victoria Harbour since 1880, about fitting solar panels on one of their vessels.

Solar Albatross in Hong Kong with solar sails raised

And in Australia, he hopes to clinch deals this year with the operator of a river ferry and install the technology on two ocean research vessels.

There are other solar-powered ships in operation such as the catamaran Turanor PlanetSolar, which is circumnavigating the globe exclusively by harnessing the power of the sun. However, Mr Dane says the technology developed by his company is the most commercially tested.

More ambitiously, Mr Dane says the company will soon announce a trial with an Australian mining company to attach a 40m (130ft) tall solar sail to a newly built bulk carrier that will ship iron ore and other raw materials to China.

Solar Sailor is in talks with an Australian mining company about installing a solar sail on a bulk carrier that transports iron ore and other raw materials

He likens the sail to a “giant windmill blade” that would be covered in solar panels and fold down into the vessel when it is docking and transferring cargo.

By harnessing the wind, the company estimates that the giant sail could shave 20% to 40%, or around A$3m (£2m; $3.1m), off a ship’s annual fuel bill when travelling at 16 knots (18mph), with the solar panels contributing an extra 3% to 6% saving.

“The systems were are installing are worth around A$6 million and therefore the return of investment would be a couple of years at the current oil price,” he says.

“It’s not a matter of if we’re going to do it, it’s a matter of how – right now we are working out the details.”

Green oceans

If, as Mr Dane hopes, the technology is adopted more widely, it also has the potential to clean up the shipping industry, which environmental campaigners claim emits more greenhouse gases than commercial aviation.

Roughly 50,000 ships carry 90% of the world’s trade cargo, and these ships tend to burn a heavily polluting oil known as bunker fuel.

The Solar Albatross ferry, in part powered by two solar sails, comes into dock with sails lowered

“It’s like tar, you have to heat it up to make it liquid so it will flow,” says Mr Dane.

“These incredibly powerful engines run on incredibly cheap but dirty fuel so what we can do in the short-term is to ensure they use less fuel.”

The industry has proved hard for governments to regulate as it does not fall into one jurisdiction, however the United Nations International Maritime Organization has recently introduced new regulations on fuel efficiency and sulphur emissions that could drive demand for Solar Sailor’s technology.

Mr Dane is optimistic about the company’s future even though after more than a decade of doing business it has yet to turn a profit.

He says the company will in future focus on areas less affected the global economic downturn such as defence, with plans afoot to use the technology in unmanned ocean vehicles that could replace navy patrol boats.

“We know (our technology) works. We know the return on investment but there’s been factors outside our control like the economic environment that have inhibited what we are doing,” Mr Dane says.

“We think we’re at a very exciting point with regards to profitability and one of the projects (we’re working on) will make us incredibly profitable in 2012.”

Advanced Plasma’s Trash-to-Power Plans in U.K. Need $618 Million – Bloomberg

Advanced Plasma’s Trash-to-Power Plans in U.K. Need $618 Million

By Louise Downing – Jan 19, 2012 8:30 PM GMT+0800

Advanced Plasma Power Ltd., a developer of waste-to-energy technology, is
talking to as many as 15 investors to raise as much as 400 million pounds
($618 million) for projects that turn trash into power.

The London-based company is speaking to private equity investors and
infrastructure funds in the U.K., U.S., Europe and the Middle East and
already has three “agreements in principle” in place, Rolf Stein, chief
executive officer of Advanced Plasma, said without elaborating in a phone

Advanced Plasma is working with “a number of the leading” U.K. waste
management companies he didn’t name to deliver as many as 10 projects that
use waste from British homes and businesses to generate electricity and
heat. The facilities are expected to have 160 megawatts of total capacity.

The U.K.’s goal is to get at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable
sources by 2020, a sevenfold jump from 2008. The Department of Energy &
Climate Change estimates as much as half the total figure may be generated
from biomass, which includes wood chips, municipal waste and straw.

“We are hoping to attract 50 percent senior debt into the projects at
financial close but this will be dependent on market conditions including
Basel III constraints at the time of each close,” Stein said of the
capital-adequacy rules.

“The Green Investment Bank could certainly have an important role to play
here,” he said of the bank that will fund clean-energy projects, helping
spur investment in the industry, and move the U.K. toward a lower-carbon

Green Bank Pledge

Britain has pledged to put 3 billion pounds into the Green Bank that could
leverage a further 15 billion pounds of private investment. The bank’s
priorities through 2016 will include commercial and industrial waste
processing, recycling and energy generated from waste. The bank needs
European Commission approval before it can start, and should have full
borrowing powers from 2015.

Financial closure for the first of Advanced Plasma’s projects is expected at
the end of this year, and on all 10 facilities in two to three years, the
executive said. The equity requirement for the projects could be less than
400 million pounds should earlier facilities be refinanced and later
projects have a higher level of debt, he said.

The technology developer might consider an initial public offering next
year, Stein also said. “Whilst I can’t speak for all shareholders, for the
majority an initial public offering is unlikely to be an exit strategy at
this time and we probably wouldn’t look to raise much money from it.”

A share sale would instead provide the company with liquidity to structure
some “interesting” deals and perhaps some development capital. Advanced
Plasma in May joined with Group Machiels to build a project at a landfill
site in Belgium that will dig up underground trash and turn it into power.
The company isn’t looking to pursue similar facilities in the U.K. as
there’s “ample need” to first address the issue of diverting residual waste
from landfill, Stein said.

“We do see landfill mining as an important part of the energy and resource
landscape of the future however,” he said.

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Louise Downing in London

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg in London at

Plasma arc is unsuitable for SAR

South China Morning Post – 17 Jan 2012

Lai See, Hong Kong’s self-appointed guru on waste incineration, wasted no time replying to my letter (“Incinerators’ good global track record”, January 7) and dashed to defend his call for plasma arc technology to dispose of Hong Kong’s household refuse (“Garbage in, garbage out”, January 7). This is something I consider as expensive and, given the good track record of moving grate incinerators, as unnecessary as sending the refuse to the sun.

Instead of underpinning his views with facts, however, Lai See suggested Explosion Power Hong Kong Limited argued only out of self-interest, because we supply equipment and services to such plants.

We are interested in selling our expertise, service and equipment to waste-to-energy plants. Our company, its parent and principals in Switzerland, and its partners worldwide have gained unparalleled expertise in designing, building, operating, and providing maintenance services to thousands of incinerators of any type.

Our main product, on-line boiler cleaning, is a widely and highly sought-after service to enhance operational efficiencies of such plants.

Our third generation explosion generator is the tailor-made technology for closed-system, high-temperature incinerators, like, for example, the plasma arc furnace Lai See supports. Should Hong Kong spend huge amounts of money to build unnecessary plasma arc furnaces, the use of our new, and much more expensive equipment, would almost be mandatory.

Why then are we not in favour of plasma arc technology for Hong Kong’s waste-to-energy plant? Because it is a waste of time and money. It will use energy rather than produce, and we want an incinerator to be built now, and not talked about for years to come. We do care about the environment and about Hong Kong taxpayers’ money.

Alexander Luedi, general manager, Explosion Power Hong Kong Limited


DownloadPDF : Municipal-Solid-Waste-to-Energy-Conversion-Processes-Economic-Technical-And-Renewable-Comparisons-0470539674-Wiley-1

Plasma Arc The Leading Light?

download PDF : Plasma Arc The Leading Light

SRI Research Identifies Environmentally Friendly Process to Make Coal-Based Liquid Fuel – MarketWatch

press release

Dec. 20, 2011, 12:00 p.m. EST

SRI Research Identifies Environmentally Friendly Process to Make Coal-Based
Liquid Fuel

MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Research from
SRI International has identified a promising new way to produce liquid
transportation fuels from coal without consuming water or generating carbon
dioxide. Based on data from bench-scale tests, SRI engineers estimate that
the capital cost for a full-scale plant using SRI’s process would be less
than half that of a conventional coal-to-liquids (CTL) plant that uses a
process called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS). FTS produces only a small
fraction of the hydrocarbons needed for fuel and requires extensive

SRI’s new process uses natural gas to provide the hydrogen needed to convert
coal to syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen). Syngas is first
converted into methanol, which can then be efficiently processed to make
transportation fuels.

Using natural gas eliminates the need to add water as a source of hydrogen,
reduces the need to add energy to drive the gasification reaction, and
results in the use of a smaller gasifier. In conventional CTL approaches,
energy is supplied by burning a portion of the coal feed, which then
produces carbon dioxide. SRI’s approach makes it economical to use carbon
neutral electricity, such as nuclear, hydro, or solar as a source of
additional energy.

“The implications of this research are expansive, including enhancing US
energy security through the use of domestic carbon sources,” said Robert
Wilson, Ph.D., director, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, SRI
International. “The process can also dramatically reduce the environmental
footprint associated with alternative transportation fuels.”

SRI performed a series of analyses to examine the environmental impact of
the technology under several scenarios. Based on these analyses, if diesel
were produced using biogas as the source of methane, the resulting product
would qualify as an alternative fuel under the revised Renewable Fuels
Standard of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The Act
requires alternative fuels to meet a standard of 50-percent reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions compared to other fuels.

The SRI process was recently presented at the 28th Annual International
Pittsburgh Coal Conference in a presentation titled, “Coal Gasification with
Methane Reforming: A Novel Environmentally Benign CTL Process” by Ripudaman
Malhotra, associate director of SRI’s Chemical Science and Technology

The effort or project depicted is supported by DARPA under Contract No.
HR0011-10-0049. The views and conclusions contained in this document are
those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the
official policies, either expressly or implied, of the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency or the U.S. Government.

About SRI International Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a nonprofit
research and development organization, performs sponsored R&D for
governments, businesses, and foundations. SRI brings its innovations to the
marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off
ventures. Commemorating its 65th anniversary in 2011, SRI is known for
world-changing innovations in computing, health and pharmaceuticals,
chemistry and materials, sensing, energy, education, national defense, and

SOURCE SRI International

Copyright (C) 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

Victory for Greenpeace as Facebook Un-Likes Coal


The release last month of a joint announcement by Greenpeace and Facebook marks the end of one of the most interesting green campaigns of recent years. Greenpeace first targeted Facebook 20 months ago, after the social media giant announced a new purpose-built data center, which it turned out would depend on electricity mainly generated from coal. Facebook cited its commitment to building an energy-efficient data center, but Greenpeace argued that ignoring the prime source of energy for the site undermined other green elements of the strategy.

According to the new statement, Facebook is now committed to using renewable energy in future data centers and also offers to promote this approach to other companies:

Facebook is committed to supporting the development of clean and renewable sources of energy, and our goal is to power all of our operations with clean and renewable energy. Building on our leadership in energy efficiency (through the Open Compute Project), we are working in partnership with Greenpeace and others to create a world that is highly efficient and powered by clean and renewable energy.

A number of specific activities are also mentioned in the statement. Facebook has committed to adopting a siting policy that states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy supply, and funding research into energy efficiency that will be shared through the Open Compute Project. The company will also “Engage in a dialogue with our utility providers about increasing the supply of clean energy that power Facebook data centers.”

Greenpeace, meanwhile, will help support for the Open Compute Project, by encouraging companies to join in, use the technology, and share their own efficiency innovations, and will encourage utilities to offer ways for customers to get their utility data.

Purists may decry the lack of specific goals or actions relating to existing data centers, but the statement clearly marks an acceptance by Facebook of Greenpeace’s basic argument. The biggest irony of the campaign of course is that Greenpeace used the facilities of Facebook to campaign against Facebook. More than 700,000 people signed up to the organization’s Unfriend Coal page on Facebook (which now includes a timeline description of campaign). Now that same platform (though not necessarily that page) will be used to encourage energy efficiency and to convince other companies to adopt clean energy sources.

The Open Compute project mentioned in the statement was started by Facebook as a means of sharing its own work on energy efficiency in the data center. While the initiative sought to counter some of the flack being received from Greenpeace, it also addressed an important criticism of many of the major Internet companies with regard to their secrecy over their data center operations. The new sense of cooperation between Facebook and Greenpeace is likely to put more pressure on other Internet and cloud providers to increase their transparency in this area. The campaign demonstrates the importance and visibility that is now attached to data center facilities and the fact that citing a low power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating isn’t enough to satisfy environmental campaigners.

The power of Facebook, Twitter and other social media is now becoming evident on a daily basis. In our recent report Social Media in the Utility Industry, for example, we estimate that in 2011 more than 57 million utility customers worldwide will use some form of social media to engage with their electricity providers, and that number will grow to 624 million by the end of 2017. As Facebook found, important conversations are already going on that will impact your business, whether you’re involved or not.

Eric Woods is an analyst at Pike Research who focuses on the smart grid and green information technology


Download PDF : AdvancedPlasmaPower

Plasco’s tomorrow man


Plasco’s tomorrow man

Andreas Tsangaris is the chief scientist at Plasco Energy, which has just won a contract from the City of Ottawa, to convert garbage to energy using the company’s unique plasma gasification process. He is sitting beside a Galileo Thermometer he has in his office.

The company’s chief scientist is already thinking about the company’s next breakthrough

By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen January 9, 2012


Photos ( 4 )

More Images »

Andreas Tsangaris is the chief scientist at Plasco Energy, which has just won a contract from the City of Ottawa, to convert garbage to energy using the company’s unique plasma gasification process. He is sitting beside a Galileo Thermometer he has in his office.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — One of the people least affected by the landmark deal Plasco Energy Group has reached with the City of Ottawa is the company’s chief scientist and longest-serving employee.

For the company, the deal is huge, worth $182 million over 20 years. More, actually, figuring in inflation and the potential for another 20 years of extensions. In its first major commercial deal, the Ottawa-based company is to take 300 tonnes a day of the city’s residential garbage and run it through Plasco’s “plasma gasification” process to turn it into electricity, water, and a glassy leftover slag.

“It’s exciting that we are at the last step, or one of the last steps, of this process,” Andreas Tsangaris says. But really, his work is done, except for final fine-tuning on the demonstration project that’s to be the template for a multi-unit commercial plant. “There is no more research that will be done for this version. … The phases are three, four, five years.”

Soft-spoken and Greek-accented, with a salt-and-pepper goatee, Tsangaris occupies an interior office on the fourth floor of a nondescript building in Kanata. Cubicles for his seven staff are just outside his door, closer to the view of the Alcatel-Lucent complex a couple of blocks away. The decorations are modest: a gilded map (from the Bombay Company), a poster of the Winged Victory of Samothrace (from the Louvre), a Galilean thermometer that tells the temperature with buoyant bulbs of coloured liquid (from someplace Tsangaris can’t remember). It’s small and uncluttered. A place to work.

Tsangaris is a Greek Cypriot by birth, an Ottawan by choice and chance. The youngest of six children, the 56-year-old graduated from an English-language school that gave him a British-standard diploma.

“I was going toward studying in Britain,” he says. And then the Turks invaded and put that out of reach of his family’s finances.

But a scholarship from the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Association sent him to Carleton University in 1976.

“They told me where I would go, and I said, ‘all right.’” He earned two engineering degrees.

Plasco has been in its Innovation Drive quarters for about four years, a time that has coincided with its increasing velocity toward the Ottawa deal. But it’s far from a startup: the company and its predecessors have worked in Ottawa since the 1970s, seeking commercial uses for plasma technology that its long-ago founder, Terry Grinnell, first saw as a military officer on an exchange with NASA.

Super-hot torches were used to test heat shields for space shuttles and could run for seven to 10 minutes, the same length of time a shuttle spent re-entering the earth’s atmosphere; the company’s first challenge was inventing torches that could run longer. It set up in Ottawa to be close to the federal science establishment.

Tsangaris joined the company, then called Resorption Canada, as employee No. 1. His master’s thesis at Carleton was relevant to the company’s research and a professor put him in touch. “We were sort of looking for each other.”

Since then, it’s been a long, slow mission of developing the plasma technology and finding uses for it — funded by this or that program, benefiting from this or that partnership, as government policy and private industry’s interests changed. Tsangaris’ early work focused on the “energy balance” of the process, working out how much energy had to be run through waste of various kinds in order to break it down, and how much energy could be extracted from the waste’s components. His name is on two dozen patents.

“The idea, initially, was to produce what we used,” he says, to make the process run on the energy it generated. That meant refining (and refining, and refining) to minimize the use of the high-power plasma torches and maximize the energy captured.

“In the 1980s, the main focus was the environment,” he says. “There was not much emphasis, for the world, on recovering waste because the projections for energy from sources like nuclear were so large.”

And nobody was thinking much about running out of room in landfills. Hazardous waste — PCBs, heavy metals, poisons of all kinds — was a problem in vogue and plasma technology was seen as a way of solving it, but the company also worked on hospital waste and regular garbage. Residential waste is such a hodgepodge that if you can devise a gasification process that works on it, that process will work on almost anything.

And that, Tsangaris says, is Plasco’s major scientific achievement. It’s easy to burn garbage to heat water to make steam to turn a turbine to make electricity.

“Boilers and steam turbines are very, very forgiving,” he says, “but much less efficient.”

Plasco’s trick is to break down garbage’s complex molecules into simple elements and then recombine them into its famous “syngas,” which is burned in engines to directly generate electricity.

“Gas engines are temperamental,” Tsangaris says. “Once they are turned to a certain level, they need to be fed the fuel they’re expecting.”

It takes a sophisticated control system to make sure that no matter what random crud is dropped into one end of Plasco’s system, the same quality of gas comes out the other.

Like all the early Plasco team, who worked partly for cash and partly for equity, Tsangaris owns a piece of the company. He won’t say how much, but considering the hundreds of millions of dollars the company has raised from investors, it can’t be large.

“The way we all see it is, it’s better to have a small piece of a big, safe pie than a large piece of a small pie that might not be there,” he says.

The outside investment comes, in large part, from the work of Rod Bryden, the former Systemhouse and Ottawa Senators boss who came to head Plasco in 2005.

People who labour away on a technology for decades before a swashbuckler like Bryden arrives to take over might chafe. Tsangaris says he doesn’t: Bryden’s arrival was exciting, he says.

“You can go to war with him and you know he’s a good leader,” Tsangaris says.

Bryden brought financial acumen, corporate contacts and a feel for the market.

“I was an engineer and I knew I could make it work,” Tsangaris says. “I could talk about it, but I couldn’t sell it. … To take it to its full potential needed somebody like Rod Bryden.”

Bryden oriented the company for commercial success, Tsangaris says. Plasco could still apply itself to disposing of hazardous waste, for instance, and that’s potentially an extremely lucrative market, but it’s much less stable. Municipal garbage might make less money by the tonne, but it can produce steady long-term contracts like the one with Ottawa.

He is not bothered, he says, by the people who’ve said that Bryden is a snake-oil merchant and Plasco’s process is unproven at best, hocus-pocus at worst.

“I feel that they are wrong. I cannot be angry. There are people who will believe what they will believe. We have the data to prove it.”

His R&D team will support the new commercial plant however they’re needed, he says, but their main job is to look ahead to Plasco’s “generation-two technologies,” processes and techniques that aren’t protected by patents yet. They’re physically separated in Plasco’s office from the people working on current projects so that they won’t, as engineers do, chat about interesting problems they’re working on and risk even an innocent leak.

The next generation occupies Tsangaris’s thoughts at night, when he goes home to his wife and two sons at their home near Hogs Back. At bedtime, he says, he doesn’t read or count sheep. To take his mind off today, he thinks about tomorrow.

“My job is to bring new things to the company. Not all of them will be things that will end up being useful, though of course that’s the intention. But always to be thinking ahead.

“During the relaxation time, that’s when you can let your mind go.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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