The Economist brings us a very positive review of both the technology advances and new economics of plasma-burners. Ordinarly household waste will no longer go to tips in a few major cities around the world, but will instead produce electricity, petrochemical feedstocks, and building materials. I still think recycling metal, paper, and glass are important, as I outline in my summary page on Plasma Burners. But one thing is for sure — this technology is about to get a BIG workout!
The first rubbish-to-syngas plants were built almost a decade ago, in Japan—where land scarcity means tipping fees are particularly high. Now the idea is moving elsewhere. This year Geoplasma plans to start constructing a plant costing $120m in St Lucie County, Florida. It will be fed with waste from local households and should create enough syngas to make electricity for more than 20,000 homes. The company reckons it can make enough money from the project to service the debt incurred in constructing the plant and still provide a profit from the beginning.
Nor is Geoplasma alone. More than three dozen other American firms are proposing plasma-torch syngas plants, according to Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, a waste consultancy based in Fairfax, Virginia. Demand is so great that the Westinghouse Plasma Corporation, an American manufacturer of plasma torches, is able to hire out its test facility in Madison, Pennsylvania, for $150,000 a day.