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Controversial Cahill Energy project unlikely to begin before 2018

There’s uncertainty surrounding the date for the start of the controversial Cahill Energy Project, and it could be at least three years before it materializes.

That’s according to Kerry McKenna, Practice Leader in Gasification and Coals to Liquids at Hatch – the Honour Engineer for Cahill Energy – who explained that designs for the project were still ongoing.

Speaking from his office in Mississauga, Canada this morning, McKenna told Barbados TODAY that due
to the complexity and nature of the venture, it could take between three to six years to complete the waste-to-energy project.

“These projects vary in length. As you go through the engineering and design phases, they take a few years to design, and then there is also financing steps which sometimes delay these type of projects, so it could be anywhere from three years to five or six years depending on how many bumps happen to occur,” McKenna revealed.

“There are a lot of factors and it’s a big window, but there are a lot of things that can still happen . . . but a concerted timeframe would be anywhere from three to six years.”

The technology engineer stressed that there had been no agreement on a start-up date for the project.

“I’m not aware of any confirmed date. There are a bunch of engineering steps that are going to be needed to be progressed through, so we are still doing a lot of design work and selecting the final technologies and things like that.

“There needs to be an environmental assessment and a permitting process that needs to go through. So all those steps that we are still getting to, create some uncertainty as to exactly how long it will take in terms of the time for constructing,” McKenna noted, stressing that this was typical for projects of this nature.

However, during a town hall meeting at the Lester Vaughan School on Monday night, the former professor of Chemistry
at St Lawerence University of New York, Paul Connett, suggested that a waste-to-energy plant in Barbados was unlikely to become a reality.

“Don’t get too scared, because they’re not going to build the stupid thing. It won’t happen, either because of the legal aspects, or the people of Barbados just won’t stand for it,” Connett told the packed audience gathered for the event, organized by the Future Centre Trust.

“Before I came to Barbados, I had no knowledge of Barbados,” Connett said, in an attempt to emphasize his neutrality. “I have no interest in the politics here [or] the political parties, I have no axe to grind.

“I am just going to give you what I believe, based upon 30 years of studying waste management.”

Connett, who is a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, and author of the book, Zero Waste Solution – Unthrashing the Planet One Community at a Time, suggested that a waste conservation solution would be a more suitable option for Barbados.

“We want model solutions, and my dream for Barbados is to help this island become a model for the whole Caribbean. We want Barbados to show that an island can develop a circular economy, and persuade not only the rest of the Caribbean to follow suit and cooperate on this, but also to be a model for every island in the world,” he insisted.

“I’ve been to many islands – Hawaii, Isle of Man, St Maarten, Curacao Puerto Rico, Guam. . . and they’re all struggling to handle the waste problem, because they’ve all taken the attitude of, ‘let’s find a place to put it.’”

The Guernsey-based Cahill Energy announced in March 2014 that it had signed an  “historic” agreement with the Government of Barbados to build and operate “a leading edge” US$240 million clean energy plant in n Vaucluse, St Thomas. The company said it would utilize “the most innovative technology available” to transform all kinds of waste on Barbados into clean, renewable energy.

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has questioned Cahill Energy’s ability to deliver, while warning that plasma gasification technology was “largely untested commercially”. She has also called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to release details of the agreement to the public.

McKenna said while he understood some of the concerns being raised about the multi-million dollar project, there was no reason to fear.

He pointed out that similar technology had been instituted in countries such as Japan, as well as across Europe.

“The technology which is going to be used in the project, called plasma gasification, this process has been demonstrated in Japan where it has been operational for over 10 years. It’s being introduced in Europe and there are two major plants of similar scale being built in England right now,” the engineer explained.

“It’s very well researched and used in England in terms of the health effects to the local community, so we know it’s quite safe,” he said.

Source: (RB/GA)

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