Years ago, when incineration became a dirty word, many companies sprang up, developing a variety of advanced thermal processes, including pyrolysis, gasification and many variations on the theme, as a way of converting waste-derived materials into valuable heat and electricity.
In theory, these techniques could be both cleaner and more efficient than traditional combustion or incineration projects and, with the roots of coal gasification dating back to the 18th Century, well, surely this was a technique that could be easily perfected and adopted as a modern Energy-from-Waste solution.
NOT THE CASE !!!
What appeared, on the face of it, to be a straightforward progression from design, to prototyping, to testing and finally to commercialisation certainly didn’t turn out that way for many early pioneers in this sector. Countless millions of pounds have been lost by numerous technology companies and developers, many falling into the same traps, time and time again:
- Severely underestimating the time and cost of taking such a technology to market
- Being pressured by investors to build a commercial plant before it had been fully proven
- Failure to recognise the problems of scale-up from small, working prototypes to substantial and complex power plants
- Being unrealistic about the quality of feedstock available from the waste industry, with developers assuming that the composition of waste-derived materials could be guaranteed, free from problems or contaminants.
Whilst many retreated or wrote off their investments in these expensive experiments, a few companies have kept their focus and learned from the mistakes of others, heralding a new age of Energy-from-Waste technologies, with some exciting new developments.
Refgas Ltd www.refgas-uk.com is one such company which started on this journey over ten years ago, and, thanks to the tenacity of its team and its source of private funding, provided mainly by the family owners, has finally reached the hallowed ground of commercialisation. With the construction of its first, large-scale commercial plant in Royal Wootton Bassett now in the final stages of commissioning, its attractive, modular approach, can satisfy the energy demand of a large industrial energy user, with an on-site system, or, as is the case at Wootton Basset, combine a number of modules to generate power for export to the grid. In this case, 6MWs of electricity and over 8MWs of heat are produced each hour, around the clock….enough power for around 12,000 homes !
It hasn’t been an easy ride and George Willacy, Refgas’ founder may have been in a different frame of mind for investing, all those years ago, if he’d been told that his 3 year business plan for commercialisation would, in fact, be stretched to ten years. However, the company is now starting to consider a very rosy future, with opportunities opening up around the globe, and, with buyers seeing that attractive returns can be generated without reliance upon government or green-energy incentives, all eyes are on Refgas !
Take a look at the Refgas Youtube channel at: www.youtube.com/channel/UCyJu12_ukGw5H35J68RZqEw