February 10th was a sad day in Ottawa….

Ottawa’s Plasco Energy Group filed for creditor protection and eliminated 80 jobs in nation’s capital, in an effort to restructure. Only 25 employees will remain through the course of this transition and the Trail Rd. facility will no longer operate. This is the latest in a series of challenges for Plasco, which was attempting to build a plant to convert municipal waste to energy. The company had missed three deadlines set by the city to secure financing for the project. The city of Ottawa didn’t have any money tied up in the project, but this was a hopeful exercise to deal with the municipality’s growing landfill issue. Under creditor protection Plasco will continue to oversee day to day operations of the company. A team of restructuring specialists will determine if it can be commercially viable, sold or should be wound down.

According to the Ottawa Citizen – In late 2014, the Plasco Group began operating the demonstration facility for longer intervals in order to further assess its ability to operate at commercial levels and to convert both wet and dry waste continuously,” reads an affidavit from Randall Benson, a partner and turnaround specialist with KPMG, who has been brought in to help Plasco restructure. As a result of these production runs, Plasco Group engineers concluded that certain aspects of the conversion system needed to be redesigned in order to sustain commercial operating performance on an economically viable basis. . . . The Plasco Group is considering and developing potential solutions to improve the conversion system’s ability to operate at commercial levels, which will require additional time and funding.”

In 2005, Plasco was a small company led by ex Ottawa Senators owner Rod Bryden. By 2008, former mayor Larry O’Brien had committed city land for a demonstration project after a successful pitch on the technology. After a series of trials, Plasco finally received its certification from the environment ministry in 2011, which paved the way for a commercial plant. Although it had raised more than $300 million dollars since 2011, the company was unable to secure financing for its commercial plant by a crucial Dec. 31 deadline, missing its third and final deadline under a 20-year contract that would have paid Plasco $9.1 million a year to take up to 300 tonnes of garbage each day.

This is discouraging for the city’s waste management prospects. Plasco’s technology would have dealt with a significant amount of the city’s garbage and would have been feeding the provincial electricity grid. We had a post on the blog about this back in October of 2013 that explained how it all worked.

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