The world’s first plant with the technology at the Protos site near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire is now at the planning approval stage and hopes are it will get underway in the new year. The £20million zero waste scheme sustains itself and will be able to take up to 35 tons of contaminated, unrecyclable plastic a day. Heat treatment in a sealed chamber and smart systems that determine the make-up of the gas as it passes through remove carbon and convert the waste into synthetic gas.
Hydrogen will be extracted for fuel, gas for generating electricity and heat available for local distribution. As well as 14 jobs, 100 more will be created during fabrication and construction.
The UK discards 3.3 million tons of plastic every year, with two-thirds sent for disposal overseas.
But with more countries shutting their doors, and more plastic now at risk of ending up in landfill or incinerated as current recycling systems fail to keep pace, hydrogen plants are being seen as a key solution as countries transition to low carbon economies.
But it has taken over decade for this project to get to this stage, an achievement down to innovative partnerships and much determination by entrepreneur Howard White, W2T’s founder whose vision has been “to turn off the plastic tap into the world’s oceans”.
“We turn waste into products for the future,” he explains.
The technology, in a format of distributed modular systems (DMG), belongs to junior stock exchange listed PowerHouse Energy Group (AIM:PHE) with the University of Chester’s Energy Centre at Thornton Science Park hosting the prototype and providing a skilled talent pool.
Teaming up with Peel Environmental, part of infrastructure and property investor the Peel Group, W2T has the exclusive licence for PowerHouse’s technology in the UK and south east Asia, and will operate the plant on Peel’s Protos one.
“We are looking at a pipeline of UK projects. The DMG system presents the opportunity to establish up to 200 in the UK,” says White who forecasts a second year turnover for W2T of £20 million for 10 systems.
The company, privately owned by 30 shareholders, has a team of 10 but plans to employ dozens more through contract manufacturing.
Some 900 tons of plastic waste makes its way each month into the world’s oceans and W2T’s main focus is Asia where the majority of what is dumped comes from.
“The flexibility of our model means low income plastic collectors earn more, investors receive high returns, clean energy can be provided and plastic stopped from entering the oceans,” adds White.
Clients will range from waste companies to car manufacturers and cement conglomerates, high emission producers which currently burn the likes of old tyres in open kilns to achieve the intense heat their processes need.
“Once this unit is working,” he predicts “it will open the floodgates.”