Garbage-to-energy plant up for study

March 3, 2011

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — The Provincial Board (PB) is now studying a probable solution to Pampanga’s waste woes after an American firm presented its proposal for a garbage-to-energy plant at Bliss Hotel here.
Zehira USA’s Michael Jimenez said the gasification solution project uses German technology that could churn out as much as 350 tons daily into consumable energy seen to eventually solve the province’s massive garbage problem, including the lack of a viable landfill.
Jimenez told the board that the project is now in place in many European countries, which he said see the elimination of landfills by the year 2020. The same proposal has been submitted and presented to various cities in the country, like Cagayan de Oro and Cebu, he added.

The plant, he said, uses about seven chambers, each with a capacity of 350 tons per day that turns unsegregated garbage into gas, with “zero emission,” and uses organic by-products from waste as its “charcoal.”
The concept is much like the Biosphere project now being completed in the City of San Fernando.
“This will at no cost at all to the Provincial Government. All we need is 15 hectares of land preferably a former open dumpsite where we could build the power plant,” he said, revealing that the investment for the project on their part is a staggering US$1.2 billion, with about US$900 million going to the power plant alone.
Jimenez said the plant could be completed in just 18 months, which is enough time to address Pampanga’s daily output of some 700 tons of garbage, as the minimum requirement for the project is pegged at 1,000 tons per day.
He also said that their return on investment would come from the power generated, and that a “royalty fee” would be accorded Capitol, with hauling and tipping fees guaranteed to be lower than Kalangitan’s P800 per metric ton.
Jimenez presented to the PB a draft memorandum of agreement for their study and presentation to Governor Lilia Pineda for her approval.
But fourth district Board Member and PB committee on environment and natural resources chairman Nestor Tolentino said a thorough evaluation of the proposal must be done as the project “sounds too good to be true.”
“It is good and it could probably the solution to our garbage problem but we have to study this carefully because to invest $1.0 billion dollars without charging a cost on the other party maybe nothing possible. It’s too good to be true but we will see and we have yet to prove that it is the reality,” Tolentino told Sun.Star Pampanga.
For Board Members Tarcicio “Tars” DC Halili and Dein Henson, the proposal would require serious study as they said there are “apprehensions” that need to be addressed.
“If it’s good for the province, why not? We are spending P500 million per year on garbage and if the project is real, then we could save on the budget of the Provincial Government which could be used for other projects. The 15 hectares would be easy to find but there are other concerns that need to be addressed,” said Halili.
Henson identified the other “apprehensions” as hauling and additional “hidden costs” once Capitol enters into an agreement with Zehira USA.
“Baka mapasubo tayo eh. Although the project is notable since it will address the need for alternative energy, we must also focus on other concerns like hauling and tipping fees since they are included in the proposal,” Henson said.
The hauling and tipping fees are also the worries of environment committee vice chairman Ricardo Yabut, who said: “It is still premature to decide.”
“Like I said a while ago, we need the actual costing and need to see the site. Baka nasa dulo na ng Pampanga iyon and hauling and tipping fees will be greatly affected. Let’s see first and compute then we could negotiate and talk,” he said.
The same sentiments were echoed by first district Board Member Crisostomo Garbo, who said the proposal could really be the “answer to the province’s waste problems” but the “no cost to the province” must be carefully evaluated before the whole project and the agreement would be presented to the governor. (Jovi T. De Leon)
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