Waste to Energy
Three key trends that define modern civilization are increased urbanization, rising demand for energy, and rapid growth in the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) that is generated by industrialized societies. However, emerging waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies hold the promise of addressing two of these major issues by utilizing MSW for the efficient production of electricity and heat using both biological and thermal methods.
Waste collected in cities contains a large amount of biological and renewable materials, and it is therefore an important source of renewable energy. As a consequence, energy-from-waste contributes to energy security and diversification, and matches the growing demand for renewable energy in a carbon constrained world.
Waste to energy is a complex topic, because there are many different types of waste and many different energy conversion processes for each type of waste. Classification of waste is shown below.
There are three basic processes that can be used to derive energy from waste: Biomethanation (also called anaerobic digestion), combustion, and gasification. There are variants among some of these.
- Combustion could either be the normal combustion used to fire boilers or it could be incineration at much higher temperatures.
- Gasification is a fairly complex domain with a number of variants.
- Anaerobic digestion takes the help of microorganisms to turn organic waste into biogas.
Waste to energy is steadily gaining ground as a source of alternative energy. It is debatable whether waste to energy is renewable, because it depends on the type of waste being considered. While precise data for the potential for waste-to-energy are not available, initial estimates suggest that used optimally, waste to energy could contribute to as high as 40% of the total power requirements for many countries worldwide.
Market size and growth
Today, more than 900 thermal WTE plants operate around the world and treat an estimated 0.2 billion tons of MSW with an output of approximately 130 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity.
A recent report from Pike Research forecasts that global revenues from WTE systems will experience strong growth over the next five years, more than tripling in size from $4.2 billion in 2011 to almost $13.6 billion by 2016.
Asia leads WTE market
The Asia Pacific region is set to lead the global waste-to-energy market by the end of the year 2011, according to new estimates by Pike Research. Notably, China is the fastest growing market for WTE systems.
The industry is set to triple its revenue from $4.2 billion to almost 13.6 billion by 2016, while the Asian market will increase its sales by five fold in the same time frame, says Pike Research.
In 2011, it is expected that Asia Pacific will surpass Western Europe as the largest region for WTE investment and by 2016, WTE revenues in Asia will increase more than fivefold over 2010 levels.
China, whose annual MSW generation is expected to grow from its current level of 150 million tonnes to 210 million tonnes by 2015, treats only 55 per cent of its MSW at present. Of that amount, 80 per cent is sent to landfills.
With China’s urban population predicted by the United Nations to reach one billion people by 2050, China has recognised the need for sound policies on MSW treatment. The government has responded by providing subsidies and corporate tax exemptions for WTE technology.
In 2009, China already had 70 WTE plants. Currently, more than 100 new plants are in the planning stages.
Pike Research predicts the Chinese thermal WTE technology market will grow from $875 million currently to $3.7 million in 2016. Over five years, the resulting accumulated revenue would be about $14.6 billion.
The WTE technology market offers opportunities for turnkey plant and key equipment suppliers, service companies that provide plant operations and maintenance, and engineering companies. Yet, the barriers to enter the turnkey business are substantial. Strong balance sheets to capture high capital-intensive projects and sustain long sales cycles, very reliable technologies and long-standing track records, and in-depth knowledge of market constraints are prerequisites to successfully operate in the market. A handful of specialist companies per region have these capabilities. The market is less constrained for key equipment categories such as air pollution control (APC), and this is also the case in the biological treatment market, where the capacities and the capital requirements of the projects are smaller.
Governments across the globe are offering initiatives and financial schemes to encourage production of energy from industrial and agricultural wastes. Waste to energy market and its related business opportunities are explained in detail in Chapter 2.
- Waste to energy solves two problems at the same time – it provides us a clean way to dispose waste, and presents us with an alternative source of energy
- Because waste is distributed across all regions, waste to energy provides an excellent option for distributed alternative energy
- Some of the technology options proposed – such as large scale gasification – are not yet proven, either technically or economically
- Logistics and transportation aspects of the waste-energy value chain present considerable challenges both in terms of operations as well as costs
- High capital cost requiring continuous utilisation and availability
- Significant relative power consumption and operational and maintenance expense
- Clean Technology Verticals
- Energy Generation
- Solar Energy
- Wind Energy
- Hydro Energy
- Bio-based Energy
- Geothermal Energy
- Ocean Energy
- Hydrogen Energy
- Clean Coal
- Natural Gas
- Nuclear Energy
- Coal Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Energy Infrastructure and Carriers
- Energy Storage
- Air & Environment Management
- Water and Waste water Management
- Sustainable Materials
- Sustainability Production/Manufacturing
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Sustainable Transportation
- Recycling Waste Management
- Sustainable Life Style