PHL’s first thermal gasification in Puerto Princesa

In Photo: Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron and Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi sign the country’s first waste-to-energy thermal gasification project. With them in the picture are Austworks President and lawyer Russel Alabado, and Director Greg Burton.

Did you know that 4 tons of waste is equal to 1 ton of oil? And waste can be turned into electricity? Wait no more. It can happen in the Philippines and Puerto Princesa City will lead the way.

In full swing, a waste-to-energy (WTE), or energy-from-waste plant can convert municipal and industrial solid waste into electricity, an ecologically sound, cost-effective means of energy recovery with less carbon emission.

It works by burning waste at high temperatures and using the heat to make steam. The steam then drives a turbine that creates electricity.

Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron and Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi signed the historic moment at the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of the operating contract for the country’s first WTE project on April 6. It was a breath of fresh air in a city faced with rising costs, unreliable and 100-percent fossil fuel-dependent electricity.

Knowing that population, tourism and development continue to grow rapidly, Bayron decided to pursue a novel and sustainable solid-waste management system that converts waste to energy, thereby hitting two birds with one stone.

WTE isn’t just a trash disposal method but a way to recover valuable resources, a vital part of a sustainable waste-management chain fully complementary to recycling.

Today it is possible to reuse 90 percent of the metals contained in the bottom ash. And the remaining clinker can be reused as road material. It is also one of the most robust and effective alternative energy options to reduce carbon emissions and replace fossil fuels.

In Europe 50 million tons of waste is converted into valuable energy through waste-to-energy technology, supplying 27 million Europeans with electricity. European WTE plants have the lowest level of emissions of all industrial sectors.

Santa Lourdes Plant

Adopting the Westinghouse thermal gasification technology that is already in use in Japan and in many European countries, Austworks Corp., in joint venture with the city government of Puerto Princesa, will be putting up a P2.1-billion waste-to-energy plant at the city’s Santa Lourdes Sanitary Landfill.

Using the city’s 110 metric ton-per-day municipal waste as feedstock, the plant will generate some 5.5 megawatts of electricity. The generating capacity will increase as the volume of the city’s solid waste increases.

Austworks will cap the existing sanitary landfill once the project becomes operational and will add on a methane-harvesting facility to capture the methane gas inherent in landfills, thereby preventing it from polluting the atmosphere and generating additional power, as well.

Green energy alternative

The design of Puerto Princesa power-producing systems is modular, which means customers can scale the plants to meet their energy needs and retain the ability to increase capacity as demand dictates.

Gasification is a complete thermal breakdown of the biomass particles into a combustible gas, volatiles and ash in an enclosed reactor (gasifier) in the presence of any externally supplied oxidizing agent (air, O2, H2O, CO2, etc.) at equivalent ratio.

Gasification is an intermediate step between pyrolysis and combustion, a two-step, endothermic process. It has the unique characteristic of being such a technology that can even convert waste (from municipal solid waste to agricultural or crop residues like coconut shells, rice husks, straw, wood residues, bagasse, etc.) to a useful and high-quality energy source. It gives the advantage of separating the noxious substances from the fuel gas prior to combustion.

“Doing away with the need to construct another expensive sanitary landfill and earning unexpected income of up to P20 million a year as its share from project revenue, the city will save P40 million annually, which is its budget allocation for solid-waste collection, since Austworks will do the actual waste collection themselves.

“Unlike most renewable energies that are intermittent, the project will provide the first base-load renewable energy in the province that is very much competitive in terms of reliability, sustainability and low- generation cost. Puerto Princesa stands to gain from this trailblazing technology,” Bayron said.

After full and faithful compliance with City Ordinance 702, “An Ordinance Pursuing A Joint Venture (JV) Approach Towards Development, Providing For The Procedure In Selecting The JV Private Sector Partner And Regulation Of The JV Activity, And Instituting Accountability Mechanism,” the city government and Austworks Corp. signed in August 2016 a joint-venture agreement (JVA) for the waste-to-energy project.

The project then got a certificate of approval from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development; environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and an endorsement of the selected technology from the Department of Science and Technology.

Based on its JVA with the city government, Austworks will start preparation of the Detailed Engineering and Design (DED) within 30 calendar days from the signing of the DOE Operating Contract. Construction shall commence within 15 calendar days from approval of the DED by the Department of Energy.

“We were inspired to pursue this project by no less than President Duterte himself, who endorsed this waste-to-energy project as an innovative mode of solid-waste disposal in his first State of the Nation Address. And we are very thankful to [Energy Secretary Alfonso] Cusi for having facilitated and signed the necessary operating contract,” Bayron reiterated.

Secretary Cusi congratulated Bayron for having pioneered in his city the country’s first thermal gasification WTE project. “The entire country should benefit from this new technology,” Cusi said.

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Over 25 years of experience as advertising Executive Creative Director in the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia, and 20 years as Journalist for three of the country's major broadsheets. Former President, Creative Guild of the Philippines.