Waste to Energy

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,009
Northern NH
MOD EDIT: comments moved to a new thread on Waste to Energy

Interesting that you say too cheap, so you want to artificially increase the price of oil which would be essentially be a regressive tax on the working poor. Their heat bills would rise as would their electric and gasoline costs, and the costs of anything made from plastic right down to carpeting. I think a solution that needs to be revisited is burning the combustible trash to generate electricity using advanced scrubbers to keep emissions to a bare minimum. Of course their will be some push back from environmentalist but you can't have your cake and eat it too. I know people that live paycheck to paycheck and increase their utility costs would push them into a very tough financial situation. Those that are well off could care less how much they pay for fuel, or electricity.
Europe and Japan almost exclusively burn non recyclable trash. Trash burning got a bad rep in the US in the late seventies and eighties when trash burner could get very high priced electric supply contracts so many got built with very primitive emissions controls. To minimize hauling costs the plants were frequently located in or quite close to cities usually in poor sections of the city. The state of the art plants used in Europe and Japan have very impressive emissions control technology. it just costs money install and run it. Scrubbers are just the start, usually its combination of scrubbers, wet electrostatic precipitators and possibly sorbent injection like activated carbon followed by another scrubbing stage.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,442
Downeast Maine
Europe and Japan almost exclusively burn non recyclable trash. Trash burning got a bad rep in the US in the late seventies and eighties when trash burner could get very high priced electric supply contracts so many got built with very primitive emissions controls. To minimize hauling costs the plants were frequently located in or quite close to cities usually in poor sections of the city. The state of the art plants used in Europe and Japan have very impressive emissions control technology. it just costs money install and run it. Scrubbers are just the start, usually its combination of scrubbers, wet electrostatic precipitators and possibly sorbent injection like activated carbon followed by another scrubbing stage.
I always assumed burning waste to be a net loss in money or energy. Is the slag/ash useful?
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,009
Northern NH
I always assumed burning waste to be a net loss in money or energy. Is the slag/ash useful?
If the alternative is landfilling it, then burning it is lower cost disposal method even though they have to add supplemental fuel to make it burn. Plastic burns real well and tends be big portion of the wastestream so supplemental fuel is rarely required. When trash is burned, he volume and weight goes way down so it takes up less space in landfill and costs less to haul. Some firms so try to recovered metals from the ash but expect its only makes sense when metal markets are sky high. There is also a demand for the bottom ash as its mixed in with gravel for making temporary roads in landfills. The fly ash is usually just waste. My local landfill crushes all the glass they get from their recycling facility for the same purpose. Most landfills are mounds not holes in the ground and they have to ensure a minimum solids content of the waste to make sure the piles mounds stay up. If the waste is too wet like wastewater sludge, they need to blend it with solids to get it over minimum solids content. If they don't, the sides of the mounds can slump. The landfill in Hampden by I95 used to have that happen on occasion before it was closed. Depending on the type of waste a lot of the volume of landfill is just gravel. When our former mill landfill was mostly sludge from the pulp and papermaking process, more than half the weight in the landfill was from gravel we had to mine and haul tot the site to make the sludge dry enough.

Central Maine is betting on new type of waste disposal facility, https://fiberight.com/fiberight-maine/ Lots of folks wondering if its going to work out since its the first commercial plant in the world./
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,442
Downeast Maine
If the alternative is landfilling it, then burning it is lower cost disposal method even though they have to add supplemental fuel to make it burn. Plastic burns real well and tends be big portion of the wastestream so supplemental fuel is rarely required. When trash is burned, he volume and weight goes way down so it takes up less space in landfill and costs less to haul. Some firms so try to recovered metals from the ash but expect its only makes sense when metal markets are sky high. There is also a demand for the bottom ash as its mixed in with gravel for making temporary roads in landfills. The fly ash is usually just waste. My local landfill crushes all the glass they get from their recycling facility for the same purpose. Most landfills are mounds not holes in the ground and they have to ensure a minimum solids content of the waste to make sure the piles mounds stay up. If the waste is too wet like wastewater sludge, they need to blend it with solids to get it over minimum solids content. If they don't, the sides of the mounds can slump. The landfill in Hampden by I95 used to have that happen on occasion before it was closed. Depending on the type of waste a lot of the volume of landfill is just gravel. When our former mill landfill was mostly sludge from the pulp and papermaking process, more than half the weight in the landfill was from gravel we had to mine and haul tot the site to make the sludge dry enough.

Central Maine is betting on new type of waste disposal facility, https://fiberight.com/fiberight-maine/ Lots of folks wondering if its going to work out since its the first commercial plant in the world./
In somewhat unrelated news I saw steam coming out of the Stored Solar facility in Whitneyville.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
Central Maine is betting on new type of waste disposal facility, https://fiberight.com/fiberight-maine/ Lots of folks wondering if its going to work out since its the first commercial plant in the world./
Interesting. Our county has been considering alternative waste disposal including waste to energy, but the pushback from environmental groups has been strong. Their main concerns are emissions, especially dioxin, heavy metals and toxic ash disposal. And then there is the huge cost. I have studied both the Amager-Bakke facility in Copenhagen and the WtE facilities in Tokyo. It's impressive how well these new facilities have cleaned up emissions. And the pragmatic way they are using the ash for road and even island building after heavy metals have been remove. But local environmental groups stay fixated on the problems of 40-50 yr old facilities in the US. I'd like to know more about the Fiberight facility and what its design emissions are and what will be done to treat and use the ash.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,009
Northern NH
I expect if the Fiberlight process works and stays in business there will be other municipalities that will rush in. The state of Maine and much of New England have effectively banned new landfills and the remaining ones are owned by a couple of very large firms that make sure that they extract every dollar out of the effective monopolies they ended up with. They charge what the market will bear and that drives the avoided cost for alternatives. The majority of the towns that support the Fiberlight process disposed of trash in a trash burner built in 1988. It had some real lucrative power contracts that supporting the operation and kept the trash disposal prices lower. That contract is over so the price of disposal was slated for a big increase. Fiberlight offers a lower disposal fee but the trade off is its the first commercial facility of its kind. Even though long term contracts are signed with lots of penalties there are not a lot of alternatives for the towns if the process doesnt work the way the developer thought it would. Ultimately it has to work, it just may cost more. I think I saw recent news that many of the claimed valuable "waste streams" that would keep the cost down didnt have any customers wanting to buy them. The problem from afar that I see is they place a lot of value on extracting organic waste and converting it to a flamable gas in an anaerobic digester. I just dont see that much organic waste in the waste stream although there is some as landfills generate some landfill gas by anerobic action which in many areas are burned to generate a small amount of power (compared to venting it).

Everyone wants a "pot of gold" out of waste streams. Municipalities are under pressure to find the cheapest way to dispose of waste and developers are always coming up with the latest greatest new technology to turn that waste into "gold". In the vast number of cases the only "gold" that gets generated is into the developers pocket. The developers inevitably have a way of extracting themselves and their share of profits long before the plant runs long enough for its failings to appear. I have personally been technically involved with two such systems and still have a hand typed report I did back at my first real job 35 years ago that states the same thing that is true today. The BTU content of municipal waste is very low or negative due to it being wet. The far greater value is to minimize the weight and volume. There may be beneficial value to the waste ash but along with it there are long term liabilities so the best option is dispose of it in a lined landfill.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,442
Downeast Maine
I expect if the Fiberlight process works and stays in business there will be other municipalities that will rush in. The state of Maine and much of New England have effectively banned new landfills and the remaining ones are owned by a couple of very large firms that make sure that they extract every dollar out of the effective monopolies they ended up with. They charge what the market will bear and that drives the avoided cost for alternatives. The majority of the towns that support the Fiberlight process disposed of trash in a trash burner built in 1988. It had some real lucrative power contracts that supporting the operation and kept the trash disposal prices lower. That contract is over so the price of disposal was slated for a big increase. Fiberlight offers a lower disposal fee but the trade off is its the first commercial facility of its kind. Even though long term contracts are signed with lots of penalties there are not a lot of alternatives for the towns if the process doesnt work the way the developer thought it would. Ultimately it has to work, it just may cost more. I think I saw recent news that many of the claimed valuable "waste streams" that would keep the cost down didnt have any customers wanting to buy them. The problem from afar that I see is they place a lot of value on extracting organic waste and converting it to a flamable gas in an anaerobic digester. I just dont see that much organic waste in the waste stream although there is some as landfills generate some landfill gas by anerobic action which in many areas are burned to generate a small amount of power (compared to venting it).

Everyone wants a "pot of gold" out of waste streams. Municipalities are under pressure to find the cheapest way to dispose of waste and developers are always coming up with the latest greatest new technology to turn that waste into "gold". In the vast number of cases the only "gold" that gets generated is into the developers pocket. The developers inevitably have a way of extracting themselves and their share of profits long before the plant runs long enough for its failings to appear. I have personally been technically involved with two such systems and still have a hand typed report I did back at my first real job 35 years ago that states the same thing that is true today. The BTU content of municipal waste is very low or negative due to it being wet. The far greater value is to minimize the weight and volume. There may be beneficial value to the waste ash but along with it there are long term liabilities so the best option is dispose of it in a lined landfill.
Well, now I know why waste disposal is so expensive here. There have been many hidden costs that were not evident in our research before moving here. Overall it has been a big push for me personally to reduce my carbon footprint.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,962
SW Virginia
Interesting. Our county has been considering alternative waste disposal including waste to energy, but the pushback from environmental groups has been strong. Their main concerns are emissions, especially dioxin, heavy metals and toxic ash disposal. And then there is the huge cost. I have studied both the Amager-Bakke facility in Copenhagen and the WtE facilities in Tokyo. It's impressive how well these new facilities have cleaned up emissions. And the pragmatic way they are using the ash for road and even island building after heavy metals have been remove. But local environmental groups stay fixated on the problems of 40-50 yr old facilities in the US. I'd like to know more about the Fiberight facility and what its design emissions are and what will be done to treat and use the ash.
More about the Fiberight process here. Unfortunately the link to the University of Maine report at the URL above is dead.
They are doing only cellulosic materials so its not like they're taking on plastics or mixed waste.

I don't think we're giving current WTE technology a fair shake in the U.S., especially WRT tough-to-recycle waste streams such as mixed plastics.
I also think there's an incredible missed opportunity for conversion of closed coal power plants to WTE plants. They are typically located in remote locations and already have the transportation, material handling, and waste storage infrastructure in place . Of course, incinerators and associated scrubbers etc. would need to be upgraded to current tech.
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Another option is a Bioreactor Landfill. We have one here that was one of the first in the world when it was opened. But of course this method still requires a landfill, but it can capture the methane that is typically released to the atmosphere and use it to generate electricity. It still doesn't do a good job of breaking down the plastics. Which would lead me to believe that sorting the waste stream would offer the best results, sort out the plastics and other high energy fuels to burn in a waste to energy plant, while sending the water saturated organics and non-organics to the landfill to be decomposed for landfill gas.

Here is the fact sheet of the Bioreactor Landfill we have here in town, the gas is used to generate electricity that helps to power the adjacent water treatment plant:

 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,962
SW Virginia
The problem with landfills is that we haven't been able to build one yet that doesn't leak into the underlying aquifers. At least when I used to work with them 20 years ago that was the case. Whether clay or synthetic or a combination of both, they leak and what they release is particularly nasty stuff. Bioreactor landfills sound like a great idea but the degradation products of some common compounds are much more toxic than the original material. Trichloroethylene, (TCE) the 2nd most prevalent contaminant of groundwater after petroleum products, is a good example.
its interesting too how this stuff ends up in landfills. TCE used to be used to dissolve sewer pipe clogs and so it ended up in septic systems. It then ended up in the groundwater via the leach field and some was transported to, and disposed at, landfills in septic sludge.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
The one nice thing around here is our ground water is deep, trapped in layers of sandstone under relatively impermeable rock. Not that it makes leaching acceptable.

The problem we have similar to many other areas is no one wants to burn garbage, so it is going in a landfill either way.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,962
SW Virginia
The one nice thing around here is our ground water is deep, trapped in layers of sandstone under relatively impermeable rock. Not that it makes leaching acceptable.
That may protect you for a while but every well that penetrates that sandstone layer to get to the clean water below also presents a potential pathway for the contaminated water above to migrate into the lower aquifer. Yes, wells installed properly are sealed with something like Bentonite or grout to prevent this but these seals have also been shown to degrade with time and leak. With clay seals like Bentonite, exposure to organic solvents like TCE actually results in seal desiccation and shrinkage, which leads to cracking and leaking.
The subsurface and what goes on there is much more complex than most realize and its very hard to clean up once compromised. That's what really concerns me about deep waste injection wells and fracking for FF production.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
That may protect you for a while but every well that penetrates that sandstone layer to get to the clean water below also presents a potential pathway for the contaminated water above to migrate into the lower aquifer. Yes, wells installed properly are sealed with something like Bentonite or grout to prevent this but these seals have also been shown to degrade with time and leak. With clay seals like Bentonite, exposure to organic solvents like TCE actually results in seal desiccation and shrinkage, which leads to cracking and leaking.
The subsurface and what goes on there is much more complex than most realize and its very hard to clean up once compromised. That's what really concerns me about deep waste injection wells and fracking for FF production.
Definitely not arguing the potential is there, but we have hundreds of oil and gas wells in the area, all of which that are being drilled now are being fracked, if there will be contaminated odds are it will come from that.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
Looks like Fiberight is using Maine as a guinea pig. I can see why they want to go this route now that govt. biofuel credits are interesting, but will it work and is this the right way to deal with municipal waste? I still haven't been able to find anything on emissions for this process. Peak, do you have any sources for this info?
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,442
Downeast Maine
The part about no longer recycling or composting waste is troubling.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
The part about no longer recycling or composting waste is troubling.
Yes, and not the way it should be designed or run. Comingling always add contamination. As I looked into Copenhagen's Amager-Bakke plant and its effects on the city I found just the opposite is true. The city of Copenhagen has an exemplary and comprehensive recycling program. They have 18 different recycling systems that break down into major categories which cover organics, electronics, construction, paper & cardboard, plastics, metals, textiles (and upholstery) and toxics + lightbulbs. They also have a citywide battery collection system. You can also pick up compost for your home garden for free.

People being people however, some still do not recycle. And recycling does not capture all waste. The Amaker-Bakke facility is designed to cope with this reality. It also solves the issue of disposing medical waste. Hopefully, ME mimics their practices.
https://www.a-r-c.dk/privat/farvezoner (use Google Translate)
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,009
Northern NH
Sorry the amount of info I have seen on Fiberlight has been limited. I did wonder about the fundamental decision that were was enough organic waste to run aerobic digester on a municipal trash stream. Generally I was led to believe that the predominant leftover from a properly sorted and recycled trash stream was rubber and low grade plastics. VT has been slowly implementing composting programs to divert compostables out of their waste stream but have run into issues with contaminants getting carried into the compost stream. Compost is only valuable if its clean of contaminants.

BTW the reference to the Old Town Mill and jet fuel is left over from several years ago. One of the waste streams from turning wood into paper fiber (cellulose) is hemicellulose. It normally went along with the lignin to be burnt in the chemical recovery process but one of the prior mill owners (who went bankrupt) was separating the hemicellulose and other chemical from the lignin. They worked with the nearby University of Maine Pulp and Paper research labs. Technically these processes have been known for years but it all comes down to its more expensive to make biobased alternatives to fossil based feedstocks then it is to use fossil
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
5,442
Downeast Maine
Sorry the amount of info I have seen on Fiberlight has been limited. I did wonder about the fundamental decision that were was enough organic waste to run aerobic digester on a municipal trash stream. Generally I was led to believe that the predominant leftover from a properly sorted and recycled trash stream was rubber and low grade plastics. VT has been slowly implementing composting programs to divert compostables out of their waste stream but have run into issues with contaminants getting carried into the compost stream. Compost is only valuable if its clean of contaminants.

BTW the reference to the Old Town Mill and jet fuel is left over from several years ago. One of the waste streams from turning wood into paper fiber (cellulose) is hemicellulose. It normally went along with the lignin to be burnt in the chemical recovery process but one of the prior mill owners (who went bankrupt) was separating the hemicellulose and other chemical from the lignin. They worked with the nearby University of Maine Pulp and Paper research labs. Technically these processes have been known for years but it all comes down to its more expensive to make biobased alternatives to fossil based feedstocks then it is to use fossil
After learning on the hearth.com forums and elsewhere for the past year it seems that biological feedstocks will definitely be replacing fossil feedstocks. Especially stuff like sugar cane and other crop wastes. I don't think trees/wood will be used as a fuel/energy feedstock due to the long period of time it takes for the materials to replenish. Combined with carbon capture technology this type of fuel should be carbon neutral or even negative with the proper biomass management.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
Generally I was led to believe that the predominant leftover from a properly sorted and recycled trash stream was rubber and low grade plastics.
Incineration should be the last resort. Over 50% of the waste stream is packaging. On average organic waste constitutes a bit more than 28% of household waste.

Americans generate a huge and disproportional amount of waste. Some of the facts are mindboggling. For example:
The US population discards each year 16,000,000,000 diapers, 1,600,000,000 pens, 2,000,000,000 razor blades, 220,000,000 car tires, and enough aluminum to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over.
 

blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,575
WI, Leroy
the cost of recovering usable material is the catch 22 of all the programs. in some case the recovery methods currently in use create by- products worse than the parent material as alluded to early in the thread.
 
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Easy Livin’ 3000

Minister of Fire
Dec 23, 2015
2,895
SEPA
I suspect that future generations will regard the way we are currently handling waste, much the same way that we regard the people from the dark ages and their waste handling (dumping their chamber pots onto the streets).
 

Seasoned Oak

Minister of Fire
Oct 17, 2008
7,205
Eastern Central PA
This is one area where Govt Subsidies make sense. Make it profitable to do the right thing and costly to pollute ,and
things will change.
 
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blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,575
WI, Leroy
Problem with GoV. handouts, if and when they stop, those collecting follow suite.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,009
Northern NH
I seem to remember about 25 years ago how some big city in PA bet the towns future on a big waste to energy project and the project crashed and burned. I think they had to go bankrupt and go through some real lean years until they got clear of it. Towns and cities around Portland Maine have a WTE power plant that seems to run pretty well and stays under the radar.

There is a plant that makes recyclable recycled fiber food trays and packaging in Maine. The brand they make is Chinet but its owned by some Japanese firm. They lost a lot of business over the years to foam and are definitely taking advantage of the banning of foam.
 

Brian26

Minister of Fire
Sep 20, 2013
585
Branford, CT
Connecticut has been burning almost all their waste in trash to energy plants for decades. There are like 6-8 good size plants in the state. For a small state with no active landfills it beats trucking it out of state. There was though a big issue with a plant in Hartford this year where both turbines went down. They had to be sent to Missouri to be rebuilt and they had to ship tons of trash for months out of state. It supposedly cost millions of dollars and took hundreds of trucks to haul it.

You should see the trash truck volume on 80 west into PA from NYC. I drive that way alot and the amount of trash trucks heading into PA is mind blowing. I believe I asked a trucker once and he said it mostly goes to some massive trash to energy plant in PA.