Full steam ahead

Compact Power, the company developing waste-to-steam systems, has signed a deal to develop shipboard recycling units for UK technology giant Qinetiq.

Compact Power, the company developing waste-to-steam systems, has signed a deal to develop shipboard recycling units for technology giant Qinetiq.

The development agreement is potentially a big step forward for Bristol-based Compact Power which has patented a process to convert everyday waste materials into reusable steam energy.

Until now commercialisation of its technology has focused on developing a new generation of mini-power stations that would allow local communities to recycle their waste and use the energy they generate.

Under its agreement with Qinetiq, Compact Power will begin work on designing a much smaller unit suitable for use on ships, oil rigs and other marine installations that currently use conventional thermal incineration to dispose of their waste.

The initial phase of the project will consist of a feasibility study and initial design work. If that is successful, Compact Power will build a land-based prototype before moving to sea trials by the end of 2005.

Compact Power’s units use a combination of pyrolisis – decomposition through heat – gasification and high temperature oxidation to ‘cook’ waste material.

At the end of the process the user is left with a variety of reusable products, most notably steam that can be used to power a turbine.

Because it combines several conversion processes into a single unit, Compact Power’s system can deal with almost any type of waste.

Compact already has one working plant, a small test facility at Avonmouth which was opened in early 2002 to process clinical waste and is the only commercial facility currently using the technology.

The company has made slower progress than it hoped in opening further plants. Among other factors, this has been due to the general slowdown in economic activity and delays in implementing European regulations on recycling which Compact Power believes will act in its favour.

Recycling companies hoping to license its system have also become bogged down in red tape over planning applications for new plants.

The endorsement of its system by Qinetiq, Europe’s largest technology development organisation, is a timely boost for the Bristol firm.

Qinetiq said it was convinced that pyrolisis and gasification offered ‘inherent advantages’ over conventional thermal treatment technologies for use at sea.

Compact Power is the only UK company with the necessary expertise in the area, added Qinetiq.

Compact Power said successful development of a maritime unit could open the way for it to supply similar small-scale waste-to-energy systems to hospitals, island holiday resorts and other locations with specific recycling needs.

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