One of the most exciting developments on the horizon at the port of Hamilton will be the plasma gasification energy-from-waste facility at the port’s Pier 15 being established by Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc., a Canadian subsidiary of Leveraged Green Energy Inc., a U.S. private equity firm specializing in green energy initiatives. Plasma gasification is a non-combustion process that converts non-hazardous organic matter into synthetic gas (‘syngas’) using very high temperatures. The syngas is used to feed turbines, which in turn produce electricity.

The facility will use waste produced by port tenants and nearby businesses as its feedstock, and in turn will produce green energy that can be used locally. Marine waste is another significant potential feedstock, unique to the port environment. Comments Bruce Wood, the Port Authority’s President and CEO: “We believe the proposed facility offers a clear benefit to the port and its users. Furthermore, it represents a special opportunity for Hamilton to establish itself as a leader in clean technology, with new investments and new, clean-tech related businesses fueled by this anchor investment.”

HPA sees a number of benefits from this development, both environmental and economic. It will provide a cost-effective waste solution for port tenants, and will reduce the port’s overall environmental footprint by treating waste close to source, while creating clean energy. In the province of Ontario, industrial electricity rates represent a significant cost of doing business. This facility will position the port to offer a source of competitively-priced green energy, creating a cost advantage for companies locating within the port community. Taken together, these advantages will enhance the port’s value proposition to prospective tenants and other port users.

Part of the Port Authority’s rationale in pursuing this development is the belief that Hamilton, as Ontario’s former industrial heartland, is the right place to launch a clean-tech cluster in Ontario. The City of Hamilton’s Economic Development office has already identified clean tech as one of the six sectors with most growth potential in Hamilton, because of its exceptional science and research resources, technologically-capable workforce, and advanced manufacturing connections. Important connections with the scientific and research community are being made, in particular with Hamilton’s McMaster University. In 2013, the University’s Department of Engineering hosted a scientific conference exploring the new approach to waste treatment.

“There is significant momentum behind the adoption of plasma gasification as the global standard in diverting waste from landfill, and processing it close to its source,” said Robert Clark, Chief Operating Officer of project proponent Leveraged Green Energy. “Ten years from now, energy-from-waste will be the default preference, rather than landfilling.”

Because they offer a contained loop of industrial activity, waste, and energy use, ports are a logical place for facilities to be established in Canada. Similar facilities are already active, successful, and contributing to sustainable waste management and green energy generation in Finland, the United Kingdom, and a growing number of other locations. This facility will position Hamilton at the forefront of this technology in Canada.

“We recognize this proposal is a bold step,” says Bruce Wood. “We believe it is the right step, for the right reasons: because it represents a profound improvement to the way our waste is handled today; and because we have an opportunity to lead, and we should take it.”