Below are the questions answered by Dr. Paul Connett, in blue, for an article to be written and published in the Barbados Advocate newspaper: Yesterday the Barbados Advocate carried an article – Technolgy safe – which gave the assurance […] from Kerry McKenna, Technolgy Engineer at Cahill Energy plasma gasification is safe technology.
“In May 2012, Barbados hosted the UN Development Program’s “Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States” conference in the capital Bridgetown, during which the country committed itself to the “Barbados Declaration” which agrees to take actions toward providing universal access to energy, switching to renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
During the UNDP conference, the Government of Barbados also committed the country to increasing renewable energy’s share of the island’s electricity capacity to 29% by 2029. The new Cahill Energy Plasma Gasification plant is an integral part of that plan.”
1) Against the background of the above, how true or false is the final part of this quote stating that the plant would be integral to going more green in Barbados?
Burning plastics is not renewable energy. There are better uses for arable land than producing king grass to burn. If you want energy from this then it can done using anaerobic digestion. The Cahill project will compete for cash for genuine renewable energy like wind and solar. A visiting German scientist has made it clear that Barbados could have 100% renewables. A green future for Barbados would be one that combines 100% renewables in the form of wind and solar along with a zero waste strategy discussed below.
2) What are the direct and indirect disadvantages to the plant?3)
The plant will emit toxic metals (even very low levels of lead, arsenic and mercury can interfere with a child’s mental development and lower IQ). In the event that there is any blockage in the air pollution train, or a fault in the ID Fan or problems with the engine burning the cleaned syn gas the plant is fitted with a stack to vent or flare the syn gas before it enters the air pollution devices. Any toxic metals, acid gases, dioxins or furans and other products in the gas will go uncleaned into the air. Flares do not have the same burning efficiency as an engine. The other issue is the release of nanaoparticles where much of the toxic metals and dioxins will be located. There is no monitoring or regulation of nanoparticles for these devices. We will only find out the harm they may cause by monitoring the environment or people living near the plant. Why takes such risks when there are better alternatives available – which can be developed at a fraction fo the cost? – see other answers below.
3) What scientific evidence is there that plasma gasification is wrong?
Those promoting this facility have yet to prove that it is right. There is no plant of this size handling municipal solid waste anywhere in the world. They have built one in UK but it is not operating yet. We do not know how much energy it can produce or its emissions levels (only theoretical predictions based upon smaller plants. Scaling up these plants from small projects to large commercial operations has proved very difficult for the gasification technologies). Until this UK plant has been measured and verified by independent scientists and demonstrated over several years – you are taking a huge risk. This technology is littered with failed projects and bankruptcies. Even if you made it safe, and found a place for the fly ash and other air pollution control residues you still would not have made it sensible. It does not make sense to spend so much money destroying resources . Each time you gasify any thing you have to go back to square one in the LINEAR economy. We have to move towards a circular economy if we are approach a sustainable Barbados.
4) Is landfilling a viable long-term solution to treat garbage in this country with our limited landspace?
NO – but there are better alternatives than this project – see answer in 5)
5) What are the viable, accessible, affordable options for Barbados?
The Zero Waste approach described in his book and presented in two public lectures here on July 13 and July 14. San Francisco is using this approach and has already reached 80% diversion from landfill without the dangers, political opposition and capital costs of incineration and created far more jobs in the process, (provide image of the ten steps) – See ZERO WASTE APPROACH SLIDE
6) Is there any way out of the contract already agreed upon?
There had better be, otherwise there are going to be very red faces in government and very angry citizens when they realize that the next 30 years has been mortgaged to very risk project which threatens there children’s future in many ways. Better to get out now than pay a fortune later.