Page 49 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2017 publication
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Spring 2017 European Energy Innovation     49

                                                WASTE MANAGEMENT

along with the combustion of wastes        uncertainty about the exact effects        had recent setbacks, with companies
on a large scale; highlighting a           of Brexit on RDF export. Changes to        entering administration and the notable
substantial movement towards a more        the exchange rate will cause minor         failure of 2x 350,000 tonne per year
sustainable resource management            fluctuations, whilst changes to, and       gasification plants in the North East of
society. Recovering energy from            differences in, regulations may present    England. This adds to the argument
wastes has a number of benefits,           further challenges.  UK-based RDF          that smaller-scale facilities present the
mainly in reducing the volumes of          exporters will need to meet any            most viable way forward for ATT.
wastes which can otherwise not be          EU requirements, potentially in the
practically or economically recycled       form of a quality standard including       Innovation and paradigm shifts could
and in producing clean energy as a         composition, if RDF is to continue to      complement the development of
substitute to pure fossil-derived energy.  move from a non-EU member state to         smaller scale ATT. One such example
Energy security is much talked about       a member state. Another way in which       is in the recovery of secondary raw
in the movement towards renewable          RDF export could be affected is the
and cleaner energy sources. Whilst         expected growth in the total capacity        Dr Stuart Wagland, Lecturer in
not completely renewable due to the        of thermal treatment within the UK,          Renewable Energy from Waste,
plastic content of waste, waste is a       which subject to being economically          Cranfield University
secure source of energy. However, the      favourable over export, could see RDF        Dr Wagland is a Chartered Chemist
appropriate technology is required and     being retained within the UK. RDF is,        with over 12 years’ experience in the
the need to recover recyclable material    generally, more homogeneous than             waste and resource management
needs careful consideration.               unprocessed municipal waste and has          sector. He is the course director
                                           a higher calorific value. Municipal waste    of the MSc Energy from Waste
In 2009 the UK managed 11% of its          contains high-moisture food waste,           programme at Cranfield University
municipal wastes through thermal           which is unfavourable in thermal energy      and has previously contributed to
energy from waste [EfW] facilities;        recovery, so RDF is a higher quality fuel    the development of a UK business
today over 26% is managed in this          overall. This quality, along with being      case for the next generation of
way. For EU member states a similar        more homogeneous, means that it is an        energy from waste technologies.
increase has been observed, with the       ideal feedstock for advanced thermal         His current work combines
amount of waste per capita sent for        treatment [ATT] processes.                   enhanced landfill mining and energy
thermal treatment almost doubling                                                       from waste technologies, with a
since 1995 levels (from 67 to 128 kg/      Gasification and pyrolysis, collectively     specific focus on real-time waste
capita). The case for thermal energy       termed ATT, have potential benefits          characterisation and the recovery of
from waste processes is also evident in    over incineration such as the scale of       valuable commodities from mixed
the amount of waste exported from the      such processes and the flexibility in        wastes through thermal conversion.
UK to fuel plants located in mainland      the way in which the energy is utilised.
Europe, at cost (current prices paid by    For instance, the energy-rich gases
UK producers is around €60 per tonne).     (syn-gas) can either be combusted
The fuel leaving the UK has been           directly, with cleaning can be used
processed to various degrees, so has       as a fuel in gas engines/turbines, it
been shredded and some recyclables         can be stored, or it can be processed
(mostly metals) removed, therefore this    to produce liquid fuels or chemicals.
is termed ‘refuse-derived fuels’ [RDF].    The liquid fuels can be very versatile,
Since 2010, when less than 100,000         and yield higher commercial benefits
tonnes were exported, the export of        than the direct energy recovery route.
RDF has grown to around 3 million          These facilities can viably operate at
tonnes in 2016. Over half of this goes     a lower scale than combustion, thus
to the Netherlands.                        recent research by Cranfield University,
                                           funded by the Energy Technologies
The export of RDF from the UK is likely    Institute [ETI], concluded that the
to be affected in a number of ways,        development of town-scale facilities
one of which being the impending           represented a key opportunity in the
exit from Europe (“Brexit”). There is      UK. Unfortunately, ATT in the UK has
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