The Hampden waste facility that shut down last spring after just six months of commercial operations could soon reopen under the management of a Pennsylvania company that works to convert trash to electricity.
The company, Delta Thermo Energy, hopes to close the deal and reopen the Coastal Resources of Maine plant within the next four months, CEO Rob Van Naarden said on Tuesday afternoon.
The Hampden plant, which converted household trash into a mix of fuels and other materials, closed last May after its owners ran out of operating funds amid a number of construction and startup delays. That forced 115 Maine towns and cities to instead send their trash to landfills in Norridgewock and Old Town and to an Orrington plant that burns trash to generate electricity.
“We’re very excited for this opportunity to not only bring this facility back on line but also to do what is important for us,” Van Naarden said. “That is to work out environmentally and financially sound ways of handling the waste and to get all the communities, the 115, back online to make sure nothing goes to a landfill or an incinerator going forward.”
Delta Thermo Energy has been negotiating the purchase with an organization representing those communities, known as the Municipal Review Committee, and with a group of bondholders with a majority financial stake in the $90 million plant.
At the peak of its operations, Coastal Resources of Maine employed about 50 workers. Delta Thermo Energy hopes to rehire as many of the previous employees as possible, according to Van Naarden.
Founded in 2011, the Pennsylvania company has helped develop waste processing facilities in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, and it has also conducted pilot projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Van Naarden said during a virtual meeting of the Municipal Review Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
While Van Naarden’s company has developed its own technology for converting household trash into a fuel that can be burned to generate electricity, he said that its immediate goal is to restart the Hampden plant, pay off its debts and make any urgent investments needed to improve its operations, such as installing an overhead crane in the facility.
Another young mid-Atlantic company with a similar profile, Fiberight, originally designed the Hampden plant with the goal of diverting more than half of the waste it receives away from the landfill through recycling and technology that converts it into a variety of products such as plastic fuel briquettes and papermaking cellulose.
But Fiberight faced a number of startup challenges, including new import restrictions from China that made it harder to get rid of recyclables and delays in securing the environmental permits necessary to sell off the fuels it made from trash. While Fiberight is a partial owner of the Hampden plant, it has not been involved in the negotiations for its sale.
“We fully expect to be able to restart the facility as designed,” Van Naarden said. “The other company that put this technology in, we understand it, we’ve reviewed it and we feel confident we can get it restarted. It might need some minor improvements.”