'It's high time people are aware of the threat that looms large over Oman, a threat to the environment and a threat to the health of children... It's time to talk about furnaces/boilers, feeder rams, grates, condensers, turbines, scrubbers, generators, sludge tanks…,' a young Omani engineer tells Hi Weekly.
Are we talking about some sort of treatment plant? "Yes," his face brightens up, "a large facility which could generate energy from garbage, the best solution a city can have for treating domestic waste with new technologies available in the market." For, the current situation is rather bleak. The few old incinerators at the dumping yards are no longer capable of handling tonnes of waste being generated every single day. It's being dumped into landfills, to remain there for millions of years. It's never the way a developed country or a cosmopolitan city would handle a serious civic issue, he points out.
Mohammed Al Tawqi, a project engineer with an oil and gas company, is no specialist in waste management. But, entrusted with the task to find solutions for treating waste at its concession in Mukhaizna in southern Oman, he stumbled upon a brilliant concept that could replace the traditional methods of incinerating waste. The method is more than sufficient to tackle the annual waste of 9000 tonnes at Mukhaizna, and he is already in the process of upgrading the facility to tackle an estimated growth of 15,000 tonnes of waste per year.
'A brilliant solution'
While studying possible solutions, Mohammed came across the idea of utilising waste to generate energy.
"This is one of the most robust and effective alternative energy options to reduce CO2 emission and to save limited fossil fuel resources," he asserts adding, "There are some companies like Rambol which assist big cities including New York, Tokyo, Jakarta, to set up such facilities capable of handling several million tonnes of household waste."
The Amager Bakke waste-to-energy facility in Copenhagen, Denmark is currently the largest new waste-to-energy project in Europe, he points out. Scheduled for commissioning in 2016, the facility will supply 150MW low-carbon heat and 68MW electricity to 140,000 household in Copenhagen.
"Besides, the waste-to-energy facility generates a range of outputs like electricity, district heating, steam for industrial processes, desalinated seawater or even district cooling. When it is uneconomic or unsound to recycle, the residual waste becomes a valuable local source of energy," Mohammed says adding that the carbon footprint and environmental performance of a modern waste-to-energy facility would be superior to many alternative waste treatment processes.
"This is a concept that I would like to see implemented in Muscat, where the population is growing at a fast pace. It's been decades since other cities opted for this solution. In any village, town or city, everyone dumps waste somewhere and it's a major issue all around Oman. We are now just 2-3 million people. What would the situation be when we touch 20 million?" he asks.
Oman could begin implementing a 'waste-to-energy' project in Muscat and later on move to other cities like Sohar and Salalah, says Mohammed adding,"As a true citizen of this country and with my limited knowledge, I am ready to help or guide Muscat Municipality on this. This is definitely not a new technology but, for Oman, it would be," Mohammed adds.
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