PUB’s co-digestion plant now processing 3 tonnes of food waste daily

NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 15 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — After a delay in completion caused by the woes of its technology provider, a project by national water agency PUB to use food waste to generate more electricity is now processing three tonnes of food waste a day.

The co-digestion plant, which aims to produce more biogas by adding food waste to used water sludge, was completed and commissioned in November last year, PUB told TODAY.

Currently, processing segregated food waste from nine premises including schools, army camps and a food court, the aim is to increase the amount from three to 15 tonnes a day. This will be done by collecting more food waste from the current participating premises and expanding the pilot project to more suitable premises if possible, a spokesperson said.

PUB said the co-digestion plant will operate for at least 12 months for data collection, and to review and refine operations.

Last week, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the facility is designed to treat up to 40 tonnes of food waste and used water sludge. The food waste enables more energy to be produced from the anaerobic digestion process (where microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) compared with the digestion of used water sludge alone.

If successful, the process could potentially be carried out at the NEA’s future integrated waste management facility and PUB’s Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, which will be co-located, said the ministry and the NEA.

The co-digestion facility’s technology provider is a Canada-headquartered group of companies called Anaergia, which initially took on the project via its subsidiary Anaergia Pte Ltd. But after failing to pay two of its contractors S$1.2 million, Anaergia Pte Ltd was sold in December 2015 and is now called APL Bioengg Pte Ltd. It is no longer part of Anaergia.

The project was then taken on by another Anaergia subsidiary called Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd. According to Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records, its current directors are Canadian El-Kaissi Hani and Singaporeans Zhang Disong and Pay Thiam Yong Roger, who is also its secretary.

In May last year, TODAY reported that PUB had paid S$3.3 million to Anaergia Pte Ltd upon the completion of project milestones. Asked about the full cost of the project, PUB did not provide an amount but said: “The contract has project milestones and payments to Anaergia are made upon completion of each milestone.”

Anaergia Pte Ltd’s two contractors, Structura Construction and Brilliant Engineering, have not received the money owed to them. Structura, whose contract with Anaergia Pte Ltd was worth about S$1.4 million, is owed about S$960,000. Brilliant’s contract was worth about S$1 million and is owed about S$300,000.

Although both companies have obtained court judgments in their favour, they are unable to take things further. “In December 2016, we tried to do an examination of judgment debtor ... to no avail as (the director) could not be located,” said Structura director Amy Yeo.

According to the State Courts’ website, the winning party in a civil lawsuit may apply for the losing party, called the judgment debtor, to be examined under oath to determine what assets are available to satisfy the judgment debt. The winning party has to serve the debtor the court order to attend the hearing.

Ms Yeo said she has also sought the help of her Member of Parliament Sam Tan, but received a reply from MEWR that it is unable to assist further unless new information is presented on the issue. PUB is “unable to double-pay for work that has already been paid”, according to the letter seen by TODAY. “We are still in business and have small projects running. Money is tight. Operations (are) streamlined significantly but we are managing the best we can,” said Ms Yeo.

Brilliant’s engineering department had to let 10 employees go and transferred five others to its maintenance department, said director Philip Sheng. The company owes its vendors and suppliers over S$400,000.

On top of that, Mr Sheng was diagnosed with an illness last year and recently underwent surgery on his vocal cords.

Asking how PUB could simply change its contractor for the co-digestion plant, he said: “I am very disappointed that (Anaergia Pte Ltd) could do this to us and get away with it.”

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