Hamilton gasification plant needs independent review, report warns

The waste-to-energy plant proposed for Hamilton’s waterfront is the first of its kind in the world and more environmental reviews should be done, a new report given to the city warns.

Consultant questions proposal's claim that waste-to-energy method uses proven technology

Steam and other gases rise from industrial operations on Hamilton's lakeshore. A proposed gasificiation plant at Pier 15 would be the first large-scale commercial operation of its kind, a new report cautions. (John Rieti/CBC)

A consultant's report to the city warns that the potential environmental impacts of the proposed gasification waste-to-energy plant for Pier 15 "may not have been appropriately assessed."

WSP Canada, hired by the city to review the environmental screening report produced by the Port Fuels and Materials Services, Inc., says its warning is because the screening was based on the operation of a small-scale pilot project in the United Kingdom.

WSP questions whether the conclusions in the company's environmental report from the pilot project would apply to the larger scale operation proposed for Hamilton. The plant proposed for the waterfront will be the first commercial scale operation of the technology in the world. 

The proposed gasification plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)
Port Fuels says the plant — which would convert some 200,000 tonnes of imported waste per year into electricity — is based on proven technology used at a similar plant in Swindon, England. But WSP’s report questions whether it is appropriate to consider it a "proven" technology, and says there are major differences from that operation and what's planned for Hamilton.

"The currently proposed process combines two different technologies (Gasplasma and direct plasma)," the report states.

The plant would be "the first commercial implementation of this type in the world … there is no similar scale operational system using this technology," the report continues.

The report says the Swindon plant is different because it operates under a special license as a research and development facility, it operates only periodically and is significantly smaller than the Hamilton proposal — the U.K. operation only processes 625 tonnes of waste per year.

WSP Canada recommends the city perform a detailed review of the proposal.

The report says that review should aim to find out whether environmentally, "sufficient monitoring and/or mitigation measures have been identified."

WSP also wants to dig further into the studies and analyses done by Port Fuels.

Councillor to introduce motion calling for provincial study

Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, who has been calling for an independent review since seeing the plant proposal, said the report confirms the worries expressed by numerous community members.

"As has been outlined by the consultants this should not have been fast-tracked," Green said.

"This is not a common technology," he added, noting what's being proposed in Hamilton is a far cry from the Swindon operation. 

He plans to introduce a motion at city council as soon as possible formally asking for the province to conduct an independent environmental review, something he hopes will provide "empirical, evidence-based" facts about what the plant's impact would be. 

Green said he's hopeful the province will commit to the assessment, especially as local provincial leaders including the NDP's Andrea Horwath have also raised the issue at Queen's Park.


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