REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA: Because we have the world’s first waste-to-energy gasification plant that runs on hot air alone

In homage to Rod Bryden stepping down as CEO of Plasco Energy Group. Here’s hoping another kind of leadership can keep those gasification fires burning.
This story appears in the Winter edition of OTTAWA Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

Illustration by Alan King.
Illustration by Alan King.

When the city’s environment committee extended the deadline for Plasco Energy Group Inc. to secure financing for its high-tech waste-to-energy processing plant, many observers called foul. What are the rules on multi-million-dollar contracts? Does anybody know if this process even works? 

Eyebrows were raised when Rod Bryden first got the contract in 2012 to build the plant. After all, isn’t this the same guy who narrowly avoided personal bankruptcy when he owned the Sens? The guy so closely involved with financing the ill-fated WorldHeart mechanical heart scheme?

Indeed, anyone who was around in the tech boom years knows Bryden has lost money — his and others — on start-ups before. But that didn’t dissuade our elected officials from agreeing to a 20-year $180-million contract with Plasco, of which he is president and CEO, to convert waste to energy in a complex process known as plasma gasification.

Bryden and his crew were initially given until March 2013 to secure financing. That deadline came and went, and he was given an extension to late August. As the extension date drew near with no signs of anyone stepping up with cash, city staff became increasingly antsy, and Bryden insisted “It’s going fine.”

In August, following presentations by a waste expert who urged them to do otherwise, the city’s environment committee gave Plasco yet another extension — 16 more months to rustle up the moolah. The clock is now ticking down to December 31, 2014.

Opponents say it’s time to pull the plug. Proponents argue the city has nothing to lose. And Bryden? He says simply that he has underestimated the challenges in bringing enough investors on board.

As we wait to see what happens next, we can at least applaud the amount of hot air created around this project — even before the plant is up and running.