Malaysia’s WTE construction remains challenging

The 1st WTE plant, spearheaded by Cypark in Ladang Tanah Merah, Negri Sembilan, is yet to begin operation


THE government is planning to set up six waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities by 2025, but the establishment of such technology remains challenging amid the current impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

In June, the Department of Solid Waste Management (JPSPN) told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that the government is looking forward to implementing WTE-type facilities in Malaysia as it is proven to treat solid waste more effectively than the use of landfill.

The system, at the same time, can generate electricity which can be sold to power providers for revenue, said JPSPN, a division of the Housing and Local Govern ment Ministry (KPKT).

However, the first WTE plant, spearheaded by its developer Cypark Resources Bhd in Ladang Tanah Merah in Lukut, Negri Sembilan, is yet to begin operation.

Citing the difficulties of arranging for external experts to be flown to the plant to run the testing and commissioning (T&C) procedure, Cypark group CEO Datuk Daud Ahmad said the commercial operation date for the facility may be delayed again.

Daud told TMR in June that the company would only have a clear direction on the commissioning process after the experts arrive.

However, this remains uncertain as international borders are still closed and the special approval process is still underway.

“This involves a few countries, including Korea, Japan and Germany, who are the technology providers for this plant.

“They need to lead the T&C process and ensure it meets the requirements before handing over to us. This is a critical process,” Daud said.

The RM300 million public-private partnership project — constructed in 2016 under the build-operate-manage-transfer concept — was supposed to commence in January 2018.

However, the project was first delayed to December 2018, and further to June 2019, before KPKT Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin (picture; centre) granted Cypark another six-month extension — stating some technical issues with the road access to the landfill area.

Known as SMART (solid waste modular advanced recovery and treatment) WTE, the facility is designed to convert solid waste to energy (electricity) based on a sustainable and integrated waste management concept.

The project has a 4ha built-up area and will be able to undertake 600 tonnes of mechanically segregated and processed municipal solid waste per day.

The project should be the impetus for other states to develop their own WTE incinerators, in line with the ministry’s vision to construct at least one WTE facility in each state.

In July last year, KPKT also announced the request for proposal for the construction of a WTE plant in the Bukit Payong Sanitary landfill in Batu Pahat, Johor. Zuraida said the project will be awarded in the first half of 2021.

Other expected WTE plant projects at the Sungai Udang landfill will then be followed by the implementation of the same system at the landfills in Seelong, Johor; Samling, Selangor; and Jabor, Pahang.

Universiti Malaya Institute of Ocean and Earth Science director Prof Dr Sumiani Yusoff said Malaysia needs to continue its effort in establishing the WTE system despite the unprecedented environment caused by Covid-19.

“Malaysia, like other South-East Asia countries, is exploring the WTE renewable and alternative energy to be gained from waste resources, not only to minimise the waste crisis, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts from the energy sector.

“Turning waste to energy is essential to curb the colossal amount of waste we produce from our high consumption patterns, and also the associated adverse environmental impact due to uncontrolled or unsanitary landfill,” she told TMR.

According to figures, in 2016 alone, Malaysians produced an average of 38,000 tonnes of solid waste daily.

On average, a Malaysian dumps 1.64kg of waste a day, compared to the worldwide average of 1.2kg daily.

Sumiani said the complexity of waste projects, in general, needs proper planning and action plan execution.

“For example, non-homogeneous and inconsistent feedstock from waste can be challenging, especially where separation at source is not a norm in Malaysia.

“As such, it will need greater technical challenge for the WTE management, especially in terms of engineering and construction (to cope with the kind of waste Malaysians produce),” she added.

Read our earlier report

Govt targets six waste-to-energy plants by 2021