What are Waste to Energy Technologies (wikipedia article link)

Situation in Pune[edit | edit source]

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) facilities are being installed at Uruli Devachi under the Centrally Sponsored 10 air field town project. Selco International and Hanjer Biotech have been identified through NBCC under this project. The facilities are stated to include:

  • 500 MTD Mechanical Composting Unit near completion, being set up by Selco International
  • 80 MTD Mechanical Composting Trial runs underway and 20 MTD Vermi composting unit, being set up by Hanjer Biotech.

The Detailed Project Report and the agreements between the NBCC and the project proponents do not mention RDF plants. However, PMC officials describe the installations at Uruli as RDF and the equipment erected at Uruli is also as used for RDF installations.

Issues[edit | edit source]

There are several concerns related to RDF technology.

  • The experience from Agra, Chennai, Hyderabad reveals that RDF is a technology that has been ‘tried, tested, and failed’. The amount of waste processed at RDF plants set up in Deonar, Hyderabad and Vijaywada is much lesser than was originally stated.
  • In Agra and Chennai citizens have strongly opposed the setting up of RDF plants. The health impacts of dioxin and heavy metal toxicity caused by the RDF plant in Chennai are already visible among people living near by.
  • In Europe and the US, the RDF and incineration plants are in fact shutting down due to environmental and health concerns. RDF plants and incinerator chimneys convert solid combustible materials into gaseous pollutants that are difficult to trap.
  • Further, there is no laboratory in India that can test incinerator ash and gaseous emissions for dioxins, and so it is impossible to monitor the performance of RDF furnaces
  • The capex per MW for RDF plants is much higher (upto almost twice) the capex for conventional thermal power plants. Apart from issues related to toxic ash and high capital expenditure, Dr Sreenivas highlighted the fact that despite claims to the contrary, the energy produced from an RDF plant even if it used up the entire 1200 tonnes reaching the landfill every day, would meet about 1% of Pune’s demand and less than 10% of the shortage. (Demand = 800 MW; Shortage > 100 MW; Pune’s RDF potential = 10 MW which is 1.25% of Pune’s demand).
  • The economic viability relies on tipping fee.

Suggestions[edit | edit source]

The main suggestions emerging from the seminar on 29 Nov 2008 are:

  1. The PMC has not clearly stated the nature of the technologies being adopted under the airfield project – while the presentations and discussions state that the installation at Uruli Devachi is a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant, the PMC agreements with Selco and Hanjer Biotech do not mention RDF. In fact the HUDCO DPR clearly rules out incineration as a viable option due to unsuitable waste composition. Transparency is needed on the technology proposed to be used.
  2. An inspection of the existing facility at Uruli should be done by an independent expert from the field who can verify the technologies that are proposed to be used.
  3. A Fact Finding Committee consisting of PMC officials, Elected representatives, NGOs/ citizens groups and media and industry representatives from Pune should visit the installations at Chennai and Hyderabad and interact with the residents near the installation to ascertain what the conditions are.
  4. The landfill management at Uruli is haphazard with dumping continuing on the portion that is already supposed to have been capped, and toxic work conditions for the PMC workers as well as waste pickers including children. Operational procedures are inadequate and even ghanta trucks are arriving at the landfills instead of BRCs. Urgent measures must be taken to remediate the existing landfill and surrounds, including the conditions of waste collectors, residents and PMC workers.
  5. The PMC should be urged to cancel all plans for RDF plants, and to look for comprehensive alternatives to conform to the already articulated vision statement of 'No Waste to Landfill'.
  6. The PMC should provide the complete information and clarification regarding the technologies proposed to be used under the air field project. Awareness regarding the RDF and incineration technologies must be enhanced among citizens.

Presentations[edit | edit source]

Presentation by Shri Ranjit Gadgil highlights the vision statement for Solid Waste Management in Pune arrived at in 2007, through a deliberative process that included technology assessment to some extent, led by EM Centre and supported by PMC and UNEP. The vision statement is ‘No Waste to Landfill’. Against that vision statement, the actual operation and management processes and capabilities, and major gaps therein are briefly mentioned. Also suggests that citizens may be get conflicting messages from PMC: is the focus on recovery of recyclables or incineration; centralized terminal treatments or de-centralized source segregation and processing.

Presentation by Dr S Wavare provides an overview of the projects and proposals for SWM being undertaken by PMC; provides information on composting units (functioning and non-functioning) and bio-methanation plants set up or being set up in decentralized manner. Spaces have been identified in all 14 Administrative Wards of the city for setting up organic waste processing units. Also describes the Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) facilities being installed at Uruli Devachi under the Centrally Sponsored 10 air field town project.

Presentation by Dr Ashok Sreenivas highlights that most Waste to Energy technologies (RDF included) are energy negative. The total energy likely to be produced if the entire RDF potential of Pune is tapped will not meet even 1.25% of Pune's energy demand.

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