Israel Electric Corporation Eyeing Garbage as Fuel at Power Plants

Move would lessen dependence on coal, reduce pollution and provide use for refuse.

The coal currently being used at the Ashkelon power station.
Zafrir Rinat

Garbage from Israeli households could become a major source of electricity if an Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) initiative succeeds. The company hopes to make extensive use of various types of refuse as fuel at its coal-powered plants in Ashkelon and Hadera.

The move, to be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry for Environmental Protection, could reduce the emission of pollutants and provide a way to use garbage rather than bury it underground, as is currently done.

A year ago, an experiment in using refuse-derived fuel (RDF) was completed successfully at the power plant in Ashkelon. The trial, conducted in collaboration with the ministry, used RDF derived from municipal trash as raw material for burning in the plant’s furnaces. The trash in the experiment came from Italy, where there is a facility that produces such trash for a power station that is identical to the one in Israel.

The IEC says that the experiment was conducted in order to verify that using such trash does not increase the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.

The IEC estimates that in addition to refuse-derived fuel, the power station can also use wood chips derived from trimmings of avocado and citrus trees, from groves that were cut down for rejuvenation. This will reduce the amount of wood burnt to a fifth of the current amount. Other fuel sources that can be burned as fuel are residues of sewage treatment. It is estimated that one third of municipal garbage can be used as fuel.

The IEC has expressed interest in an initiative for producing 1,500 tons of RDF a day, to be transported to the Ashkelon station. Using these fuel sources will reduce the use of coal by 5%.

The Ministry for Environmental Protection is encouraging the setting up of RDF-producing facilities. One is already near completion in the former garbage dump at Hiriya, southeast of Tel Aviv. It will provide raw material to the Nesher cement factory in Ramle.

The ministry has also issued a call for the establishment of facilities that produce wood chips, promising financial support. One such plant, called Greenwood, is already operational in Carmiel and provides chips for home heating in Europe. The IEC is planning a large-scale experiment next year, using these chips at its Ashkelon station.

“Burning wood trimmings will reduce the usage of coal and the emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases” explains the ministry’s deputy director, Alon Zask. “It’s cheaper for the IEC so that both sides win.”

Large scale burning at power stations can radically change the current situation in which most refuse in Israel is buried underground. Burning trimmings will also replace the practice of smuggling the material into Palestinian Authority territory, where it is refuse-derived fuel used to make charcoal for barbecues. “We want to have farmers get a permit for cutting down trees and transporting them to suitable locations” says Zask. “We’ll have inspectors who will enforce this. We want to give farmers incentives for legal disposal of these trimmings.”

The IEC is currently installing various measures to reduce pollution at its plants in Ashkelon and Hadera. There will be a public hearing next week about permits for regulating the emission of pollutants. New measures will reduce emission substantially, according to the IEC. Towns around Ashkelon want stricter measures put in place. They believe that the IEC can meet more stringent requirements.