Pakistan: MSW Treatment with „Plasma-Technology“ ?

...not a large project, but one all the more exciting as it deals with questions and issues that often arise in international consulting – and remarkably often for projects in emerging and developing countries. At such locations one may assume (rightly so!) that a focus on prototype technologies is something which should not be top priority. However, the compulsive concept (the “King Midas-Idea”) to convert waste into money, via the intermediate forms raw materials and/or energy with no residue produced, is sometimes pursued with a level of enthusiasm which is typically inverse to tangible technical expertise (referring to waste treatment beyond laboratory scale) of the respective technology supporters. This applies in central Europe equally to in emerging and developing countries. As a consultant, to provide meaningful input to such projects is perhaps our business’ greatest challenge, and requires not only well-grounded engineering know how, but also tactful instinct, pedagogical-didactical skills – and some luck, as in the present case.

Solid Waste Treatment by Plasma Technology has been the subject of research for the last few years (with no MSW plants operating at full scale able to be identified without uncertainties). LWMC Lahore Waste Management Company, the solid waste management operator of Lahore (with 7 million inhabitants, Pakistan´s second largest city) is pursuing the vision to solve the region´s chronic energy shortfalls using a high-tech MSW treatment option. A procurement process with the search for suitable technology providers has recently commenced. To date at least, the search has been limited to providers of “Plasma Technology”. As part of the process LWMC has provided TBU bidder documents for preparing visits of reference plants with the aim to contribute to the assessment of the offered technology in respect to its suitability for the solid waste collected in Lahore (the composition and thus predictable energy content of the waste has been thoroughly investigated), process stability, energy (electricity) yield and finally capex and opex (the real assistance to LWMC for project implementation is provided by a US consultancy firm where a lot of developing efforts in respect to Plasma Technology have been undertaken).

The present (January 2014) project status from our side can best be described as identification of suitable plasma reference plants (which may take quite some time). In parallel, it is intended to establish a pilot plant in Lahore. Anticipating a rational review by key decision makers it may be assumed that, at the latest after this phase the question of technology definition will undergo a re-evaluation.