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French plasma gasification waste to energy technology developer, Europlasma, has successfully completed performance endurance tests at the troubled Morcenx waste to energy plant.

Construction work on the facility was completed back in 2012, but commissioning has been delayed due to difficulties in achieving satisfactory performance testing.

According to Europlasma, since starting up the plant in February 2014, several tests campaigns have now been performed, each one allowing the operator to improve his knowledge of the process and fine-tune the operational parameters to improve the plant performance.

The company said that successful performance endurance tests carried out between 9 June and 13 June have now allowed it to secure the Preliminary take over (Preliminary TOD) certificate from the client.

During this period, 372 tonnes of fuel (waste and biomass) was said to have been processed and 266 MWh of electricity to have delivered to the grid.

As a consequence, the client, CHO Morcenx, paid the total sums due upon TOD under the contract and the participation of CHO Power, wholly owned subsidiary of Europlasma, in CHO Morcenx will be increased from 25% to 35% through exercise of related warrants.

According to Europlasma this preliminary TOD is validation of its process.

Down on power

The company said that during the endurance tests all the operating parameters initially set in the contract for the TOD have been met or exceeded, except the average power output of the waste to energy plant – slightly over 3MWe. This remains at this stage in the test program below original expectations.

However, Europlasma added that the reasons for the low electrical output have now been identified and solutions are known.

These reasons are said to be twofold. The fragility of various auxiliary equipment causing frequent stoppages, and the sizing of some equipment, designed and built before the change of gasifier in 2013.

The execution of corrective measures is expected to require additional investment of around €1 million, and time.

The company said that some of the remediation work will be completed in a few weeks, other work may take a few months depending upon the delivery lead time from our suppliers.

Upon execution of the initial improvements, expected to be before the end of July, a new performance test will be performed and the results communicated to the market.

Cash strapped

Europlasma said that its cash situation remains fragile and that trading in its shares remains suspended.

“Thanks to efforts made over these last few months, the sources of improvement of this industrial prototype plant and the identification of relevant solutions have been established. I also thank all of our shareholders and partners for their patience, as I am well aware that the delay of the preliminary take over was painful for all,” commented Jean-Eric Petit, directeur général at Europlasma.

The company said that support from the French Authorities, industrial partners, and financial partners has been decisive in enabling the Group to validate the CHO Power technology.

The financial partners in particular have granted the Group a €2.8 million loan in two tranches. The second loan of €1.1 million, being conditional upon securing the TOD, has just been paid.

Nevertheless, the Group said that its cash situation is again challenging, and the investments required to execute the technical improvements, combined with the extended duration of the ramp-up period (currently being assessed), will inevitably increase the group’s working capital requirements in the next few months.

Confronted by uncertainties on its cash situation, and in the interest of shareholders, the company said that stock trading remains suspended until publication of the Auditor’s report on the 2013 Accounts, expected by mid-July 2014.

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