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Surges and Setbacks for Trash-to-Gas Electricity

Canadian firm seizes the lead in garbage gasification after low gas prices and activists sideline Boston’s Ze-gen

4 min read

22 November 2011—Gasification power plants can now vaporize municipal waste to generate renewable power with a greatly reduced risk of the dioxin emissions that soured neighborhoods on waste incineration in decades past. Nevertheless, pushing gasification technology to commercial scale has proven tough, especially in North America. Equipment-jamming trash, low electricity prices, and enduring community opposition to any facility that resembles an incinerator have derailed every proposed project in the United States and Canada to date.

This year’s casualty was Boston-based gasification developer Ze-gen. Its innovative technology uses molten metal to turn trash into syngas (a combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen), which is subsequently burned to generate electricity. Ze-gen’s gasification system was profiled optimistically by Spectrum in 2010, but the company scrapped plans for a plant in Massachusetts that it had vowed to complete by the end of 2011.

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Greg Mably


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