Could Gasification Save the Environment?
As the population grows, so will our need for waste management. The current situation in the US alone may be surprising to most people. Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage a year, and some reports show over 400 million tons and only about 1/10th of all solid garbage in the U.S. gets recycled. These numbers combined with agricultural waste and other industry waste leaves the U.S. with a staggering number. This data lead many companies, including Waste to Energy Systems, to develop alternative energy systems to begin chipping away at the world’s environmental issues. A recent online article discusses how gasification can play a role in turning around these issues.
From “Gasification of MSW may save Mother Earth” published on www.wastedive.com
(Above Image): Gasification can greatly reduce landfill capacities.
To keep up with the amount of trash, hundreds of municipalities request permits to expand their landfill capacities. Geologist Walter Leise recently described expansion initiatives as building a mountain of trash on top of another mountain of trash, offering a vivid description of the concept. As landfills get bigger and expansions become more controversial, do officials have a better option for the disposal of municipal solid waste?
WSI Management seems to think so. The Plant City, FL-based waste management company focuses on two objectives: the need for environmentally safe and economically sound management of municipal solid waste, and the quest for clean, renewable energy. WSI Management’s Vice President Matt Linda explained to Waste Dive that the company does not look to dispose of solid waste through plasma technology, or anaerobic digestion, or incineration. Instead, the company has mapped an “intellectual blueprint” to turn MSW into fuel cubes and bioplanks through gasification.
According to a report published by the Gasification Technologies Council (GTC), gasification combines carbon-based materials in MSW (known as feedstocks) with oxygen to break them down into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, while removing pollutants. This process leaves clean, “synthesis gas” that can be converted into usable energy or products.
Despite common belief, the process of gasification is not the same as incineration. GTC defines incineration as using MSW as a fuel, “burning it with high volumes of air to form carbon dioxide and heat.” Gasification uses the MSW as a feedstock to create syngas, which is then turned into “higher valuable commercial products” instead of just heat and electricity.
“Instead of paying to dispose of and manage waste for years in a landfill, using it as a feedstock for gasification reduces disposal costs and landfill space, and converts those wastes to electricity and fuels,” the report states. Linda notes that the use of such gasification systems can solve disputes over landfill expansions and how to properly dispose of waste.
“Keystone Landfill in Pennsylvania is permitted for 7,200 tons [of MSW] a day. 7,200 tons a day that’s going into Mother Earth,” Linda says. “And now because of the expansion permits, the residents don’t want the permit and they’re up in arms. There’s another landfill expansion in Ontario, NY. You’ve got Saugus, MA; Suacon Township in PA … Prehistoric landfills don’t exist anymore and incineration just spews material into the atmosphere, which is not good for anyone. There are technologies out there that could fix all of these boo-boos, and WSI [technology] just happens to be one of many.”
Gasification will continue to be a growing source of responsible waste disposal for both waste management companies and municipalities to consider. “It’s good for the industry, good for taxpayers, and supports this Government’s long-term plan for a stronger economy,” said Maude.