Recently, Minister of Housing and Local Government (MHLG), Dato’ Wira Chor Chee Heung, had made an official announcement that the federal government, through the National Solid Waste Management Department is embarking on a determined path to introduce the first ever mass-scale incinerator facility with capacity of 800-1000 ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day in Kuala Lumpur. The minister had called for an “international tender” for the project in June/July this year, citing a “critically needed” for such a waste disposal facility in KL. A three-week lab on the best incinerator was carried out from 26 March, gathering a group of experts from academic institutions, NGOs, etc to scrutinize on the best technology, financial model, location and mitigation measures. According to most media sources, the capital expenditure of the incinerator ranges from RM500 million to RM800 million and expected to be completed in 2015.
Presently, the generation of MSW in KL is about 3000 ton/day. About 2000 ton/day of MSW arise in KL is compacted at Taman Beringin Transfer Station (located at Jinjang) before disposed at Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill (BTSL) which located at Batang Berjuntai, 70km away from KL city centre. BTSL is the largest sanitary landfill in Malaysia, with a built-up area of 1700 acres, operating capacity of 2000 ton/day and lifespan of 40 years. It was commenced in 2005 with capital cost of about RM200 million and the tipping fees range from RM28 to RM49 per ton. BTSL is a certified CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) project by UNFCCC and it is claimed that generation capacity of 6 Megawatt of electricity is possible with of 3 Megawatt supplied to TNB.
Incineration or “mass burning” is the common MSW disposal method globally after landfill. It is one of the most expensive waste treatment facilities especially when equipped with energy recovery and advanced emission control technology. Besides incineration, other thermal treatment technology such as pyrolysis and gasification are typically operated in small scale plants. Incineration can reduce the mass of MSW to less than 10% and hence increase the lifespan of landfills. Compared to landfill, the advantages of incinerator (with energy recovery) are typically the environmental benefits such as lower carbon emission, avoidance of land contamination, higher energy recovery per ton, outputs of ashes in inert form, (chemically stable without odor) and requires a minimum area of land. Economically, the benefits are the location which can be near to city and land value with less depreciation unlike landfill. For a sanitary landfill, post-closure of at least 30 years is required after the operational phases. After that, the land can only be used as low value purposes such as recreational area or golf course as the soil structure is not suitable for building construction, especially high rise.
However, the drawbacks of the financial economic of incinerator is much higher that its benefits. The capital and operational cost of incinerator is much higher than a sanitary landfill. The CapEx of an incinerator with same capacity with a sanitary landfill is at least 3 times more expensive while the OpEx is 10 times higher. For a case study, Pollution Engineering Sdn Bhd (PESB) had fabricated a 12 ton/day incinerator with capital expenditure (capex) of RM 9-10 million and operated for 2 years in Kuantan Municipal Council for R&D purpose in year 2004. It was found that it comsumed about 120 Litres (L) of diesel to incinerate 1 ton of MSW from Kuantan. Hence, the operational expenditure (opex) is easily more than RM 300/ton as the fuel (diesel) alone cost more than RM 200/ton with the current market price of diesel of RM 1.80/L.
5 units of small-scale incinerators of rotary kiln type were in erected in 5 tourism spots: Pulau Langkawi (100 ton/day), Pulau Labuan (60 ton/day), Cameron Highlands (40 ton/day), Pulau Pangkor (20 ton/day) and Pulau Tioman (10 ton/day). The incinerators use autogenous combustion technology (ACT), which involves the usage of a rotary kiln and an air-injection system to ensure continuous combustion. Recyclables will be removed from the waste prior to incineration. Emissions resulting from the combustion process will be treated by a combination of pollution control systems to remove dust particulates, acid gases, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals and dioxin. Solid waste leachate and wastewater from the plant and truck washings will be directed to a wastewater treatment plant prior to discharge. An end-of-pipe continuous emissions monitoring system will be installed to monitor compliance to DOE requirements.
These incinerators are designed and constructed by XCN Technology Sdn Bhd. The primary purpose of the introduction of incinerators at tourism spots is to divert waste from the landfill as the scarcity of land in island and highland area. However, all these incinerators are still in testing and commissioning phase by MHLG until today. The incinerator in Pulau Pangkor had begun operation on 19th March 2012. According to the plant manager (whom I had managed to interview), the CapEx of the plant is RM24million and the OpEx is about RM220/ton with manpower of 20 personnel. The design capacity is 20 ton/day but the daily waste generation at the island is only 6-7 ton/day. So the operation only run for 3-4 days a week and the rest of days are sorting and recovering of recyclable materials. All the incinerators have no energy recovery except in Pulau Langkawi, capable of generating 1MW of electricity. The bottom/fly ashes are landfilled. From my observation at the incinerators at Pulau Pangkor and Cameron Highland, open dumps are located beside the incinerators. JPSPN (National Solid Waste Management Department) under MHLG, rehabilitates and upgrades the open dumps into sanitary landfills.