A US$850 million incinerator plant, which will convert heat from burning rubbish into usable energy, is to be constructed near Mussaffah Sea Port, for the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA).
The plant is expected to burn a million tonnes of municipal waste per year and produce 100 megawatts of electricity, the same amount as the Shams One solar power plant, which opened in March.
TAQA expects to award the contract for designing and building the plant by the end of this year and to have it operating by 2016 or 2017.
“We have been assisted by Zonescorp in our site selection and are working closely with them to secure all the necessary infrastructure,” said Dr Saif Al Sayari, executive officer and head of TAQA’s energy solutions division.
“This is a long-term investment. When properly maintained these plants will last for 40 years or more.
“The waste for our plant in Abu Dhabi will come from various collection points in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and will be diverted from landfill at Al Dhafra.”
Dr Al Sayari said that there are plans to move the waste by train via Emirates Rail.
The plant will work by burning a mixture of municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial waste and using the heat to generate steam, which will drive a turbine and produce electricity.
“It is not too different to what we do at our other eight thermal power plants in the UAE, which all burn natural gas,” said Dr Al Sayari.
In the past, the burning of waste was responsible for significant air pollution but new technology is better at filtering the pollutants.
“The emissions will fall well within globally recognised guidelines, such as the Waste Incineration Directive, applicable to all European plants, of which there are hundreds,” said Dr Al Sayari.
The plant will also help reduce greenhouse gases, he said.
TAQA estimates that the facility will prevent the discharge of more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO²) per year from avoiding the use of fossil fuel for power generation as well as landfill emissions of methane, which is more than 20 times more powerful than CO² in terms of greenhouse effects.
Salem Al Kaabi, deputy general manager of the Centre for Waste Management – Abu Dhabi, said criticisms that waste-to-energy plants reduce incentives to recycle were unfounded.
“Our objective is very clear to go by the hierarchy of waste management – that is minimise generation, followed by reuse, recycling and then resource recovery – as options to divert waste away from landfills,” he said.
The centre estimates Abu Dhabi generates about 5,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. About 100 tonnes per day are recovered for recycling. The waste-to-energy plant will need 2,740 tonnes of waste per day, said Mr Al Kaabi.
TAQA is in the process of preparing an environmental permit application for the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and is also planning to build a smaller waste-to-energy plant on Delma Island as a pilot for the larger scheme.