Where there’s muck, there’s money

news: Where there’s muck, there’s money

Portugal could generate 300 mega watts of power annually from waste

WASTE from municipal and industrial sectors represents big business, as it is an increasingly important fuel source to produce heat and power. In recognition of this, the British Embassy’s Trade and Investment Department continued a series of seminars on the subject of the environment, held recently in Belém.

‘Turning Waste into Energy’ counted on experts from Portugal and the UK in the waste recycling fields, giving new meaning to the old saying ‘where there’s muck, there’s money’. What is now more apparent is that recycling waste and transforming it into energy is not only environmentally friendly, it can also provide a safe and cost-effective disposal option for products that would otherwise pose an expensive and problematic headache.

The use of waste as a fuel, which would replace the use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and petroleum and their by-products, can help reduce CO2 carbon emissions considerably. One such by-product, methane, is a very potent greenhouse gas, 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Yet, if biodegradable waste is diverted from landfill dumping and used as fuel and, if landfill gas is collected and harnessed as an energy source rather than allowed to seep into the air, these dangerous emissions can be avoided.

The need for Portugal to transform industrial, agricultural and household waste into energy is vital, given the new European Union rules on levels of toxic gas emissions whereby countries failing to keep within agreed Brussels’ limits will be fined heavily.

An important economic and

commercial issue

Opening the seminar, the British Ambassador to Portugal, John Buck, said the event was designed to showcase Portuguese and British waste-to-energy technology and give the experts the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience. It would also provided the opportunity to help build links that could result in partnerships in the future.

“The world market in environmental goods and services is now worth more than 500 billion dollars a year and that amount is predicted to grow to almost 700 billion dollars by the year 2010,” said Mr. Buck. “This shows that the environment, and the use of waste for energy, is not just an important social question, it’s also an important economic and commercial issue with considerable potential for creating prosperity.”

The Ambassador said it was crucial against the background of global interest in environmental issues and the importance with which the British government, this year in particular, is attaching to these issues given the UK’s presidency of the G8 Industrial Nations.

Business opportunities to help Portugal’s

economic development

Gil Patrão, from the Centro da Biomassa para a Energia, said Portugal must be more alert to business opportunities that exist in waste products and encourage companies to be aware of these long-lasting opportunities, which can only help the economic development of the country. “I would say that Portugal has millions of tonnes of waste matter that are neither being measured nor put to good use. Waste sites are spread around the length of the country polluting the environment, endangering the health of the Portuguese and constituting an unacceptable problem,” Patrão said.

He went on to say that forestry waste matter alone amounted to six million tonnes a year and that, from this, it would be possible to create energy in all its various forms, amounting to three million tonnes, or 50 per cent, of this biodegradable material.

In 2003, for the first time, the Portuguese government’s Council of Ministers quantified and prioritised the country’s objectives for waste disposal and recycling, with the intention of realising 150 mega watts of power potential by 2010. The three million tonnes of biomass waste products available represent almost double this figure initially estimated in 2003.

On the subject of damaging methane gas, which is being emitted into the air day-in day-out, Dr. Patrão said that this was the right time to deal with the problem and to generate business from the gas. “We’re talking about a minimum of 15 mega watts of potential energy, providing eight million hours of power a year, worth 1.3 or 1.4 million euros,” he stressed. With regards to animal biomass waste, there’s a potential of around 2,000 tonnes produced everyday in Portugal, with which no one knows what to do. “If the government wants to control this problem, we’ve got solutions for them. We know how many tonnes are produced, where it’s produced and how it can be removed. We only have to find an organised manner to set up centres to make use of this waste matter and turn it into 40 mega watts of energy,” he concluded. C.G.