Educational Expedition

Cleveland, Ohio, officials visited Japan recently to learn more about a gasifier they hope to use.
By Lisa Gibson | November 22, 2011

Following a September trip to Takasaki, Japan, local officials from Cleveland, Ohio, are now more confident in the benefits and efficiency of a system they hope to implement in their city.

Cleveland’s plan would use gasification technology to convert municipal solid waste (MSW) into about 15 megawatts of power for Cleveland Public Power customers, and would also include the development of a plant that would compress the MSW into pellets for the gasifier, as well as a curbside recycling component. Heat from the gasification process would also be used in pellet production to help sterilize the raw material.

Cleveland’s existing Ridge Road Transfer Station currently processes 3,000 tons of MSW daily during its 253 days of operation annually. It represents an opportunity for Cleveland to advance progress toward its 15 percent by 2015 advanced energy portfolio standard.

Japanese gasification equipment vendor Kinsei Sangyo Co. Ltd. could be the perfect fit for Cleveland’s project, having several systems in operation already. “We went to see the technology,” says Ivan Henderson, commissioner of Cleveland Public Power and assistant director of Public Utilities.

Henderson was joined by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Kevin Kelley, city councilman and chair of the Utilities Committee; Matt Zone, city councilman and chair of the Sustainability Subcommittee; and Valarie McCall, chief of government affairs.

“Councilman Zone and myself have seen it in action … and we wanted to share the experience with the mayor and the utilities committee chairman,” Henderson says, adding that the intent was to showcase the equipment at the vendor’s location, as well as in use for a customer.

So the group visited BML Corp., a large medical technology company in Takasaki that processes millions of blood samples every day and produces a considerable amount of hazardous waste. The company gasifies that waste stream with Kinsei Sangyo equipment, producing heat for the facility, Henderson explains. The operation is in a densely-populated urban area with an abundance of urban gardens and is able to operate within Japan’s emission limits.

“I believe it was successful,” Henderson says of the trip. “It really helped demonstrate the technology.” Some who participated in the trip wondered if it is indeed feasible and came back confident it is, he adds.

Besides seeing the system, the Japan expedition also aimed to meet Kinsei’s local government requirements, and explore a sister city relationship, along with other potential development opportunities, according to Maureen Harper, chief of communications for the mayor’s office.
Cleveland’s project is estimated to cost about $180 million, including the pellet facility, recycling component and gasification system, but project information will be updated again at the end of the year, drawing from new knowledge and experience, such as the Japan trip. The city applied for air permits in March and is expecting a draft from the U.S. EPA soon. A design report is also being produced, and the results from a request for information across all aspects of the project from 125 businesses were expected to be prepared by November.

“We’ll evaluate the results of that process and then we’ll determine what our next steps are,” Henderson says. He adds that facilitating a trip for local government officials to witness the system of a potential bidder in action was a crucial step in the development process.

—Lisa Gibson