Solid Waste & Recycling


Plasma Torch

In his own words, Rod Bryden is "in the business of building businesses." Bryden, a serial entrepreneur, former CEO and/or board member of several companies, and one-time principal owner of the Ottawa...

In his own words, Rod Bryden is “in the business of building businesses.” Bryden, a serial entrepreneur, former CEO and/or board member of several companies, and one-time principal owner of the Ottawa Senators hockey club, is currently the president and CEO of Plasco Energy Group.

In the spring of 2005, the company was formed from two companies, RCL Plasma and Plasco Energy Corp. With some 18 patents in the use of plasma arc technology for the conversion of waste into heat and the generation of electricity, the company feels that it has a unique approach to renewable energy.

A privately held, Canadian company, Plasco operates a demonstration facility in Castellgali, Spain in partnership with HERA Holdings of Spain, and is about to unveil its showcase Ontario operation in Ottawa.

The Plasco Conversion System is a thermal process that applies intense heat to waste material in an oxygen-starved environment with no emission stack and hence, no direct emissions. The system converts up to 100 tonnes of garbage per day into a synthetic gas that is then used to fuel a large internal combustion engine to generate electricity and/or steam, depending on the end-user’s needs.

The process produces three byproducts from each tonne of waste: 150 kg of inert slag that can be used as road aggregate; 5 kg of sulphur which is captured and reused; and 1.3 kg of heavy metals that are disposed of, most likely in the local landfill site.

“We receive waste as it comes off the back of the truck, it goes into a shredder and is then fed into the tank,” explains Bryden, careful to avoid comparison to traditional incineration. “We monitor the type of waste that goes into the system by using two ‘strings’ to feed the (Plasco Conversion) system. We have a real-time monitor of the feed and adjust the rates of feed from the two ‘strings’.”

Rather than decry the ambition of most municipalities to recycle a number of products that affect this fuel mixture, Bryden applauds the efforts of communities to reduce and divert recyclables.

“We’ve included in our standard contracts a clause that says the municipality will not be obliged to deliver commitments if they are responding to, say, provincial regulations that prohibit multiple packaging (cardboard within plastic),” Bryden states.

“Secondly, if the municipality has bettered the environment by affecting any of the waste that comes to us, it can divert waste stream away from us — as long as they give us advance notice,” notes Bryden. “If they can do better, and we can’t match that, they can take that waste away from us and they will not be in violation of that contract.”

Bryden’s confidence comes from the fact that this process consumes virtually 100 per cent of the waste material. According to Bryden, landfill sites usually only capture 70 per cent of methane created from solid wastes, and a typical natural gas power plant emits 350 kg of CO2 for each megawatt of electricity generated. The Plasco system results in 440 kg of CO2, well below other fossil-fuel operations.

Plasco also benefits from Ontario’s Standard Offer Program incentive of $0.11 per kWh generated by renewable projects, though Bryden feels that amount should be higher because of the efficiency of the system and the relatively smaller footprint of the operations, drawing only from local waste streams avoiding long-distance haulage of waste. The modular 100 tonne (capacity of waste) units can be combined if required or distributed throughout a region.

Plasco’s Ontario demonstration facility at the Trail Road landfill site, provided under lease from the City of Ottawa, has undergone tests and was expected to be in full operation in late summer of this year. The $30 million plant will operate at up to 85 per cent capacity. The city will pay a discounted rate of $40 per tonne processed during the two-year test. The company expects its normal rate will be between $55 and $65 per tonne.

Plasco received a $4-million grant from the province on Ontario to set up this test and Sustainable Development Technologies Canada is funding 30 per cent of the costs of the project.

Bryden invites people to visit the site to see the facility in operation. He also notes that the public will soon be able to monitor the output of the system via a real-time monitoring system on the Plasco website.

“Environmentalists sometimes are critical of stack tests results because they are conducted when conditions are favorable or they might divert waste material that might generate dioxins or furans from their stack tests,” comments Bryden. “But with real-time monitoring, we’ll be able to stand behind our system and show everyone what we can do.”

Written by lawson Hunter, publisher of renewable energy newsletter ( based in Hamilton, Ontario. Contact Lawson at

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