Power from pollutants

Energy: British company boasts of world-beating waste technology

MUCH of the interest in power generation is focused on the upheaval in the electricity industry. But away from this, a British company is claiming a world lead in converting waste into energy.

Waste Gas Technology, of Romsey, Hampshire, says its ThermoCrack process can provide the typical home with three to four months of power from a tonne of waste. Moreover, adds Kevin Whiting, the company's head of marketing, it offers "a practical, cost-efficient solution to many current disposal concerns, including sewage, tyres and municipal waste". This pressure is likely to increase because many landfill sites are already full and the introduction of the landfill tax could double costs.

ThermoCrack is an advanced, environmentally-friendly technology that uses high temperatures to make waste "crack" into smaller gas molecules and so produce high heating-value gas. It is the result of a research and development programme that WGT embarked upon when it was set up in 1992.

The privately owned company claims the process achieves more than twice the average energy output of conventional incineration: depending on the energy value of the waste material (plastic and rubber waste from tyres rate among the highest sources of energy) between 1,000 and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity per tonne of waste. In addition, it says the efficiency of the process sharply reduces the amount of carbon dioxide produced and so helps control the greenhouse effect, while the typical payback period is about four years, compared with up to 12 years for incineration.

This makes the company confident of winning strong industry interest. It expects to announce the first commercial application next month.

Among the markets being focused on initially are:

q Municipal waste, because the pressure on landfill is so acute that some counties have to ship waste elsewhere;

q Tyres, as they are barred from landfill sites because of health and safety risks;

q Waste from sewage, also excluded from landfill sites because it is biologically active.

The company says the technique also works well on wood, straw, animal waste, plastics and a range of organic materials.

In the process solid waste material is first pre-treated to remove waste that can be recycled, dried, and then granulated to increase the surface area. The resulting small particles are either stored or fed directly to the reactor. (Liquid organic wastes do not need to go through the preliminary stages.)

Just before the material is put into the reactor it is "washed" with an inert gas, for example, carbon dioxide, to remove trapped air.

The technology is notable for using high temperatures without oxygen, which maximises both clean gas production and the potential for subsequent low-cost conversion to direct heat or electrical power.

In addition, many other conversion systems are geared to producing liquid fuels, which are less environmentally friendly and, because they require further refinements, less economically viable.

Finally, WGT envisages that its plants would, at an ideal size of 60,000 tonnes a year capacity, be less visible than those of competitors. The absence of the sort of chimney required for an incinerator, for instance, minimises the impact on the landscape. "Small in size, it is acceptable as a neighbour in many edge-of-city or industrial locations," it says.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?