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Market News

 April 20, 2011
Energy from Waste Could Supply 10 Percent of Global Demand

 Waste to energy could meet as much as 10% of the world's electricity demands, according to a new report published by energy market research analyst, SBI Energy.

In the previous five years, the global waste to energy market has grown from around $4.83 billion in 2006, to $7.08 billion in 2010 - showing impressive gains throughout the economic downturn.

Based on continued growth in Asia, and the maturing of EU waste regulations and U.S. climate mitigation strategies, the report claims that by 2021 the annual global market for waste to energy technologies will exceed $27 billion, for all technologies combined.

Each year the world generates more than 2.1 billion tons (1.9 billion tonnes) of waste, most of which ends up in landfill, allowed to decay and release methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, odours, groundwater quality pollutants, and a host of other air, water, and soil pollutants.

However, according to SBI, locked inside that waste is approximately 24.5 quadrillion Btu (718,024 GWh) of energy - enough heat to generate about 10% of the electricity consumed annually around the globe.

Landfill domination

Meanwhile, the report adds that in many developed nations the availability of landfill capacity has been flat or steadily decreasing due to regulatory, planning and environmental permitting constraints. As a result, new approaches to waste management are rapidly being written into public and institutional policies at local to national levels.

Landfilling still accounts for the overwhelming majority of waste management facilities in developed countries, generally performs well in terms of throughput, public health, and safety, according to the report. But many current and widespread waste management practices are mediocre or even poor performers in terms of energy efficiency and environmental performance.

For instance, the report finds that the conventional MSW chain is commonly sees waste transported on moderate to long haul distances, which generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, transportation of the waste is followed by long-term storage in a landfill, releasing methane and other pollutants.

In developing nations, landfills can pose major public health concerns, and can in some cases represent a significant fire hazard due to spontaneous ignition.

Additionally, the report finds that many liquid waste streams, especially in the livestock and food production industries only receive minimum pretreatment prior to discharge. Dairy wastes, for instance, can result in excessive nutrient loading of farm fields, while municipal wastewater, especially in developing nations, may contain high levels of biochemical oxygen demand, bacteria, and other harmful pollutants.

Gathering momentum

The report concludes that waste to energy technologies including incineration, gasification, plasma gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion - provide a convenient solution to many of these waste management issues.

For instance, installation of a waste to energy conversion facility near a large urban centre can reduce the number of truck, train, or barge trips to landfills, reduce the volume of new material that is being stored in landfills, and reduce the proportion of organic matter that is stored in a landfill, which in turn reduces the production rates of landfill methane.

Liquid waste to energy technologies can also reduce the concentration of water quality constituents in treated effluent, by substantially reducing bacterial loading, biochemical oxygen demand, and other constituents.

Bolstered by global concern and policy actions relating to climate change, waste to energy technologies also support low-carbon and in some cases carbon-neutral energy production.

As a result, the global market for waste to energy technologies has evidenced substantial growth over the last five years, increasing from $4.83 billion in 2006, to $7.08 billion in 2010 with continued market growth through the global economic downturn.

Over the coming decade, growth trends are expected to continue, led by expansion in the US, European, Chinese, and Indian markets. By 2021, based on continued growth in Asian markets combined with the maturation of European waste management regulations and European and US climate mitigation strategies, the annual global market for waste to energy technologies will exceed $27 billion, for all technologies combined.