Puerto Rico to build 1st U.S. waste-to-energy plant
NEW YORK - Puerto Rico will build the U.S.s first waste-to-energy plant for turning garbage into 100 percent reusable materials including electricity, an official who has signed on to help build the plant said yesterday.
Unlike traditional incineration technology that converts four parts waste into one part toxic ash, the high temperature gasification process in the Puerto Rico facility will reduce all the waste to basic elements and salable outputs, according to Mark Augenblick, CEO of Caribe Waste Technologies in Dulles, Va.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello signed the bill to build the plant last week.
Before construction can begin, however, Augenblick said it will take the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) up to a year to approve the necessary licenses for the plant.
Upon approval of the project, Puerto Rican agencies will issue an estimated $400 million of tax-exempt debt and $100 million of taxable bonds to pay for the plant, said Stephen Brinkman, a managing director with ABN AMRO Inc. in Chicago. Brinkmans firm is the financial adviser for Caribe Waste Technologies, a consortium of four companies building the project.
The Puerto Rico project will turn 1.1 million tons of waste per year into 45 megawatts of power, Augenblick said. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority will buy the electricity produced by the plant.
In 1994, the EPA closed 21 of the island nations 62 landfills because they did not stand up to new environmental regulations, according to an EPA spokesman in Puerto Rico.
Some municipalities, including the capital San Juan, have run out of landfill space and sorely need alternative sites.
Upon EPA approval, the new project will be built in Caguas, 18 miles south of San Juan.
As a result of the landfill crunch in the commonwealth, other parts of the island, including a pending waste-to-energy project in the northwest, are being contemplated, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
Only three similar waste-to-energy plants currently exist, in Italy, Japan and Germany. While one more facility is almost complete, another eight are under contract, Augenblick noted.
A project in Arkansas for processing hazardous waste is also close to being approved, according to sources familiar with the transaction. Goldman Sachs & Co. will work on the financing of that project, the sources added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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