Converting trash into clean energy? This is what the project by the British company, Exergy, is betting on and proposed for Medellín. Thanks to ACI Medellín, the European company is working for the environmental preservation of the city and the planet.

Close to 3,100 tons of garbage from all over the Aburrá Valley and the 23 other communities in Antioquia come to La Pradera landfill daily. Everything that is thrown out at home ends up in this 382 hectare dump in the municipality of Don Matías in the northern region of Antioquia.

Although the service life of this landfill, which began operations in 2003, was calculated for 50 years, the accelerated overload of materials foresees a more rapid fill-up. In this context Exergy proposed a solution in tune with the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically with Responsible Production and Consumption.

How about harnessing solid residues as an energy and thermal sources, reducing part of the 90,000 tons of residues generated per month and reduction of the operations cost of the landfill by COP2,500 million?

More than COP$49,000 million, annually, could be saved in Medellín with the implementation of Waste2Energy.

This proposal was introduced in the city through an innovative technology named Waste2Energy from Exergy, in association with the Cidet – Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico para el Sector Energético (Center for Technological Research and Development for the Energy Sector) and EIA University.

Exergy’s arrival was supported by ACI Medellín and Ruta N, wherefrom communication with the foreign company was articulated and coordination ensued about conditions to advance in the necessary studies for the execution of the project.

Sustainable Energy

Exergy Limited has a total of almost seven years since its foundation and experience in R+D projects centered on sustainability. In addition to the main headquarters in Coventry, United Kingdom, the company has offices in Deft, Netherlands, Minneapolis, USA, and since 2016, in Medellín, thanks to a public finance call from the Prosperity Fund Colombia 2016.

“The company, because of its experience and capability, developed a pre-feasibility project in harnessing of solid urban residues in the Aburrá Valley and the appraisal of those residues,” explains Johann Carlos Ramirez, leader of the Energy Latin-America SAS Colombia Energy Line.

A territory to be explored

In many countries in the world, there is harnessing of residues for energy generation and to avoid high financial costs, as well as air quality affectation and the damage to rivers, due to the pouring of lixiviates. For example, while Sweden, Netherlands and Germany harness up to 90% of solid waste, in Colombia, 83% of garbage ends up in sanitary landfills.

The Method

The energy method Exergy implements is a concept which combines the optimal use of resources such as energy, water and other material, minimizing CO2 emissions, as well as emissions from other pollutants. In Twin Cities in Minnesota, a pilot test was run and proved that carbon emissions are reduced by 39% and water consumption is reduced 73% with this system.

“There is clear leadership in nordic countries as Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany, with strong incentives from the governments so that there be effective recycling for the generation of energy, production of biofuels or chemical biocomponents from urban solid waste,” declared Fernando Centeno, Innovation leader at Exergy.

More than 15% of residues that end up in La Pradera Landfill are made of recyclable material.

These figures led Exergy to propose the Waste2Energy project and the process began with a technical analysis to project the cost of investment and the optimal location of the plant. Between two choices, Bello and Barbosa, the best choice was the first for the construction of a recycling plant, incineration and harnessing of sub products connected to the EPM Waste Water Treatment Plant, from where electric and thermal energy could be generated, in addition to sub-products that could be used in the construction industry.

“Of eight possible business models, this was the most appropriate, since, in addition to the technical aspect, appraisal was made of the reduction of methane emissions to the atmosphere, as well as the mitigation of the environmental impact on water,” says Johann Ramírez.

The pre-feasibility study cost approximately COP$600 million and was covered by Exergy and presented to the government and city utility services companies.

Other Alternatives

Johann Carlos Ramírez Canedo, leader of the Power Line of Exergy Latin America SAS Colombia.

Although the implementation of Waste2Energy is being analyzed, for the second stage of the study an investment of COP$4,000 million is required. Exergy is in Ruta N looking for other possibilities in the local ecosystem to offer sustainable solutions to the region.

This is how they have visited different communities of east Antioquia and have found different local initiatives, among them in El Cármen de Viboral, where they opened a biogas plant at La Cimarrona sanitary landfill. Also, in El Santuario, they adapted a composting system with Proprietary technology.

Likewise, Exergy is investing in a blended-use building, residences and offices, stimulated by the stake of the Medellín Mayor’s Office in the urban renewal of the city center.

This building will be designed with a bioclimatic concept for the consumption of water and energy, sustainable construction, photovoltaic energy warming, motorcycle and electric bicycle charging station, and, of course, education in the treatment of residues, so as to separate from the source.

Thanks to the intervention of ACI Medellín as the link for the arrival of companies of this type and the complementary relationship with institutions, such as Ruta N, Exergy continues looking for business schemes that reduce the ecological footprint and promote planet sustainability.

“Approximately COP$860,000 millions are needed in Medellín to expand and build new landfills. Why not make better use
of these residues and financial resources to generate energy?”

Fernando Centeno, Innovation leader at Exergy.


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