Saturday, February 21, 2015
Are Anaergia's Waste-to-Energy Projects on Maui in Trouble?
By Henry Curtis
Over the past year I have blogged about Anaergia. The company is a global leader in the waste-to-energy sector.
Maui County and Anaegia worked out a deal whereby Anaergia would allegedly increase recycling at the Central Maui Landfill. Existing companies such as Pacific Biodiesel could be negatively impacted.
During the 2014 Legislative session Anaergia requested $150 million in Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (May I have $50,000,000?). The bill was rejected (Legislative Wrap-Up: The Status of Energy Bills).
In the summer of 2011 the University of Hawaii, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), the U. S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began analyzing the effluent flow from Lahaina’s injection wells to the near-shore ocean water. (Maui’s Waste-To-Energy Trajectory). Under pressure from environmentalists and their legal representatives, Earth Justice, Maui County proposed teaming up with Anaergia to use the wastewater to grow crops for conversion to electricity (Wastewater Energy).
Macquarie Group Limited owns Macquarie Capital and Macquarie Infrastructure Company (owner of Hawai`i Gas). Macquarie Capital invested in Anaergia which in turn is proposing two Maui projects. This investment could explain why the Anaergia-MECO power purchase contract talks are sluggish. (State of the State re Renewable Energy).
The Gas Company and HECO have each filed motions to intervene in the other company’s application for recently opened Public Utilities Commission regulatory proceedings.
Talks between Anaergia and Maui Electric have been sluggish. Anaergia has told this author that everything is on track, despite the appearance that they aren't.
Doug McLeod served as the Maui Energy Commissioner from January 2011 to January 2015. He is now a consultant with DKK Energy Services LLC.
Doug McLeod recently released a statement to the press outlining his views on the proposed Anaergia deal.
Overall I agreed with the Mayor 95% of the time on energy issues. That is amazingly high percentage, and people should feel confident Alan Arakawa really does want the island to get to 100% renewable energy. His heart is in the right place on all the major energy issues.
I support the Mayor's idea of having a waste to energy facility on Maui, but I do not think the specifics of what Anaergia has proposed can be considered "sustainable". The Director of the Dept of Environmental Management disagrees and feels Anaergia is a good project.
Anaergia proposes to have two different products: a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and methane gas. For the RDF they would squeeze trash into small pellets and try to sell that product as fuel. I am skeptical there are buyers for this material on Maui. HC&S is the only facility on Maui that still has an old fashioned boiler capable of using this sort of solid fuel. All of MECO's units and all of the County's generators run on liquid fuel. This RDF is basically marketed as a "hamburger helper" for coal. It is a cheap filler material. HC&S is the only importer of coal to Maui, and their air permits are under enough scrutiny I cannot imagine why they would take the risk of burning this material.
There is a coal plant on Oahu that might be able to take the material, but the whole notion of exporting this RDF makes it look less sustainable. Finally, we are ignoring some very expensive lessons learned by the City and County of Honolulu with regard to their HPower facility. They used RDF in their first unit but found that the RDF contained all sorts of compounds that would react during the combustion process and cause damage to the vessel. The new phase of HPower completed in 2012 does not use RDF due to these problems. RDF made from landfill trash will vary from day to day depending on what went into the landfill. Why would anyone risk their air permit by burning such unknown material?
With regard to methane, my issue is fairness and I find myself in the unusual position of defending MECO. The price for gas from Anaergia is simply not competitive, and MECO is being asked to solve a problem of the County's own making. The County is asking MECO to pay a 50% premium because the gas would be made from wastewater that otherwise would have gone down an injection well. MECO is under pressure from the Public Utilities Commission to reduce costs, and they would be passing the County's problem on to the MECO customers. One of the reasons this gas would be so expensive is that you would have to pump all water uphill to get it to the located proposed by Anaergia. If we want to grow crops for energy, let's do it where we do not have to pump uphill. If the County wants MECO to take this gas, the County should subsidize the cost t make it competitive with MECO's other options.
I do not see Anaergia as a solution to the injection of wastewater from the County wastewater plants. Why? The County has three wastewater plants injecting treated wastewater, and Anaergia only proposes to take wastewater from the one plant where there is an active lawsuit. More importantly, wastewater is generated every day but even in West Maui we will have wet conditions for days at a time at several points during the year. You cannot expect to land apply wastewater every day. If the judge has already found that the use of the existing well violates the Clean Water Act, I do not see how we solve the problem by saying now we only violate the Clean Water Act in certain weather conditions. In the end I suspect the County would have to spend millions on storage of wastewater in order to satisfy both Anaergia and the court.
# # # Posted by Henry Curtis at 6:03 AM Visit the Ihilani Media site