|October 10, 2011|
Waste-to-Energy - A Burning Issue for Tomorrow's Cities
|Long considered a
costly problem, municipal solid waste is now emerging as an
important revenue-generating feedstock for waste-to-energy
As municipalities look to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of their sustainability planning initiatives, new and innovative methods for burning wastes to generate heat and power are emerging.
And while, at first glance, disposing of municipal wastes would not appear to lend itself to high tech solutions, technologies that convert waste materials such as paper and plastics to produce synthetic gas (syngas) that, in turn, can be burned to generate energy are changing the economics of waste management.
What's more, technologies that reduce the volume of solid wastes in landfills have environmental benefits worthy of consideration.
Fear of toxic materials entering local eco-systems is one of the continuing legacies of the oldest and most widespread wasteto-energy processes - direct incineration.
Even though improved technologies have largely eliminated such risks, opponents of waste-to-energy systems resist any form of wastes incineration near homes and businesses for fear that fine particulates, heavy metals, trace dioxins, acid gas emissions, toxic fly ash, or incinerator bottom ash might escape into the atmosphere or pollute sensitive urban eco-systems.
Modern direct incineration plants must meet strict emission standards in most countries and thus are vastly different from older systems that in some cases did not recover energy or materials. These new systems can reduce the volume of original waste by 95-96 %, depending on what is being burned and what is recovered, such as metals from the ash for recycling.
But there is a wide variety of new technologies entering the marketplace that are replacing direct waste incineration as a means to generate energy. These include:
Municipal authorities are increasingly viewing such waste-to-energy conversion systems as potentially profitable alternatives to direct incineration or the use of landfills.
And while the public sector has traditionally dominated the waste management industry, rising oil prices, and ever-increasing demand for energy are attracting private sector investment into the market, now estimated to reach $28.8 Billion by 2015. (See Global Waste-to-Energy Market to Reach $28.8 Billion by 2015."
While Europe dominates the highly competitive world waste-to-energy market, key players can be found on all continents. Leading companies include Klean Industries Inc, AE&E Group GmbH, Axpo Kompogas AG, Babcock Wilcox Volund A/S, Bedminster International Ltd., BiogenGreenfinch, BTA International GmbH, Community Power Corporation, CNIM, Covanta Holding Corporation, EcoCorp Inc., Keppel Integrated Engineering Ltd., North American Power Group Ltd., Organic Waste Systems NV, STRABAG Umweltanlagen GmbH, Veolia Environmental Services, Waste Management Inc., and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., among others.