Waste-to-energy and fuels technology can allow energy-intensive users and manufacturers access to reduced cost of power and materials.
The advent of shale gas in the U.S. has seen gas prices plummet and predictions of energy independence by 2030. As reported in IndustryWeek, natural gas sells in the U.S. for one-third the price in Europe and one-fifth that in Asia. These factors are all driving a revolution in the U.S. petrochemical industry, leading to an increase in investment. Despite this, the U.S. will not be entirely isolated from global markets as other countries are developing their own fields; America’s current influence may erode over time. Whilst the petrochemical industry is booming, manufacturers can benefit from advanced conversion technologies.
Energy-intensive users could reap the rewards of on-site waste-to-energy and fuels technologies that exist today. Advanced gasification technologies deliver a highly efficient waste conversion process, a competitive source of energy and an effective zero-waste solution, enabling companies to comply with a progressively challenging regulatory environment as well as acting on their corporate and social responsibility targets and insulating themselves from the gas markets, supply chains and their associated costs.
Process Creates Syngas
Advanced waste-to-energy and fuels technologies produce a very clean synthesis gas directly from waste, which is suitable for further processing, making it the ideal solution for downstream applications in power, fuel and chemical production. Plasma conversion delivers such a clean, high-quality syngas that can be used directly in efficient gas engines and gas turbines to generate power. The process generates no waste outputs; any ash is vitrified into an environmentally stable and salable construction product. The composition of the syngas is highly consistent, with hydrogen and carbon monoxide forming the largest constituents. This syngas can then be converted and applied to both power generation and chemical production at a reduced cost.
The price of converting syngas into hydrogen is lower than the cost of converting natural gas into hydrogen. The small amounts of sulphur, chlorine and ammonia compounds can be easily removed, and the water gas shift reaction used to change hydrogen content. This means that in many cases the overall cost of using a waste-to-energy and fuels plant to generate hydrogen will be significantly lower and more predictable than the cost of using natural gas and steam reformation.
Waste can be an important resource for manufacturers, rather than something hazardous to be disposed of, and it should be put to best use as such. We cannot afford to waste what limited resources there are. Transforming residual, nonrecyclable waste into fuel, heat, power and usable materials can allow businesses to maintain their competitive edge and dispose of waste in a sustainable manner.
Rolf Stein is CEO of Advanced Plasma Power, a U.K.-based company that provides waste-to-energy and fuels technology.