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Mobile Waste Gasification Demo by U.S. Marines

Mobile Waste Gasification Demo by U.S. Marines

U.S. Marines in Hawaii have demonstrated Micro Auto Gasification System (MAGS) which has been developed by Canadian small scale waste gasification technology specialist, Terragon.

According to the Marines, operators start MAGS with diesel fuel, bringing the inside of its insulated drum to temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius).

The machine is loaded with waste at a rate of approximately 50 pounds (23 kg) per hour, turning 95% of it into gas which is used as fuel to sustain the process.

The remaining 5% is converted to inert ash which the Marines said can be safely disposed of in landfills, or mixed with compost, asphalt or cement. One machine is capable of meeting the daily waste disposal needs of approximately 1000 troops.

“It’s not burning,” explained Ben Tritt, the MarForPac (Marine Forces, Pacific) science advisor for Office of Naval Research. “It’s gasification under a very controlled environment, and it’s much cleaner than burning… It’s (also) a self-sustaining process.”

“It not only (handles) mixed solid waste,” he continued. “We’ve also done some testing with petroleum, oil and lubricant.

According to Tritt, virtually the only materials MAGS cannot “digest” are glass and metal, which the system sanitises and leaves intact ready to be recycled.

Aside from the environmental and health benefits of reducing landfill usage and burn pits, the Marine Corp said that MAGS, and similar waste to energy, technology can be operated expeditiously in austere and remote environments.

According to the Corp, the system’s mobility provides an economic benefit by greatly reducing the amount of waste that needs to be shipped from the forward operating base to the nearest disposal site.

“The best thing about this machine is not having to load all our trash into Humvees and other vehicles to get it out of our training site,” commented Lance Cpl. James Russell, an electrician with Combat Logistics Battalion 3.

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50 Gallon Waste Gasifier Tested by U.S. Marines

U.S. Marines based at Camp Smith, Hawaii are testing a small scale waste gasification system developed by Terragon Environmental Technologies.

Plasma Gasification Turning Waste to Fuel in China
Chinese company, Wuhan Kaidi has completed the commissioning of an Alter NRG plasma gasification waste to biofuel system at its demonstration facility in Wuhan, China.

Green Chemicals from Waste Gasification Study
Synthesis Energy Systems, which specialises in the use of gasification to produce energy and fuels is to assess the feasibility and optimal uses of its gasification technology to produce ‘green’ chemicals from waste.

Bush Power Group LLC proposes plasma gasification plant to city of Huntsville

Simple schematic of a Plasma Gasifier

Simple schematic of a Plasma Gasifier

Photo credit:
On May 18, 2010, Bush Power Group, LLC proposed to the Huntsville City Council what they believe to be a “mutually beneficial cooperative agreement” with the City to develop a plasma gasification plant on the city’s existing landfill project site.

The proposal states that Bush Power Group would finance, construct, manage, and operate the plant. The City of Huntsville is to provide municipal solid waste, sewage sludge, used tires and green waste delivery, as well as infrastructure support such as scales and access roads.
Municipal solid waste (MSW) includes everyday household trash and garbage, consisting of items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, batteries, and more. According to, 2005 statistics show that U.S. residents generated approximately 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day; more than 245 million tons of MSW in a single year.

StopThePAG (Plasma Arc Gasification plant), a local online Meetup group concerned about the proposed plant and how it could affect the community, are “worried about air pollution, groundwater contamination, property values, and Huntsville’s image.”
Citing an incident in Kapolei, Oahu, where the Asia Pacific Environmental Technology “stored excessive amounts of untreated infectious medical waste at their facility”, violating the state’s rules for solid waste, one StopThePAG organizer writes, “If for some reason they can’t torch the infectious medical waste, it just piles up. If Huntsville’s facility goes off-line, the trash is going to pile up.”

What is plasma gasification?
Basically, plasma gasification is a process, using an electric arc (plasma), that converts complex organic molecules and carbon to saleable assets like metals, slag, a synthetic gas (Syngas), potable water, steam, power, and FT liquids.
A video to explain the process can be found at:

Is plasma gasification technology truly clean and green?
Wes Muir, Director of Communications for Waste Management, Inc. writes that “With the development of the PEM [Plasma Enhanced Melter] technology, gasification technology has progressed to the point of being considered a source of green energy.” In his article, Expanding Waste-Based Renewable Energy, Muir says “it does hold the potential to process a wide range of waste streams to generate clean, renewable fuels and electricity.”

Recovered Energy, Inc. (REI), an independent engineering and consulting firm dedicated to the promotion of the most current technologies for the recovery of energy from waste, investigated approximately 70 different gasification processes and 36 plasma gasification processes. REI concluded that “Waste can be gasified to produce synthesis gas (syngas), which can be used to produce electricity. Gasification technology is well proven. There are more than 100 plasma gasification plants around the world.”

Plasma Waste Recycling, Inc. (PWR) believes “Plasma Waste Recycling is on the leading edge of clean and efficient conversion technology to recover resources and generate electricity…a more efficient, more reliable, and less capital intensive method to convert municipal solid waste (MSW) to energy and recycled materials.”

In the meantime – reduce, reuse, recycle.
Residents of Huntsville participating in the Elkins Lake curbside recycling pilot program may wonder if the proposed gasification plant will render recycling unnecessary. Statistics from the United States EPA state that the nation recycled 83 million tons of municipal solid waste with a 182 million metric ton reduction of carbon dioxide emissions; this is comparable to removing the emissions of 33 million cars off the road. In a word, recycling remains a beneficial way to handle our trash.

Reducing consumption, reusing items (or purchasing reusable items such as cloth diapers and reusable water bottles), and recycling are three key ways to reduce the MSW in our landfills, and by default, reduce their methane emissions. On a pound for pound basis, landfills have 21 times more greenhouse gas effect than the CO2 that comes from gasification.
Unfortunately, while America has reduced the amount of waste being produced in the last decade, there is still an immense amount of garbage headed to landfills.
According to the U.S. EPA 2008 report, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash. While the number of U.S. landfills steadily declined, the average landfill size has increased.
The Bush Power Group LLC proposes a reduction in Huntsville’s municipal solid waste using plasma gasification to convert waste like household and commercial garbage, plant materials, paint, tires, lithium and lead acid batteries, used motor oil and oil filters, household hazardous waste, items containing CFc’s, and florescent light bulbs into saleable assets.


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Green Chemicals from Waste Gasification Study

Green Chemicals from Waste Gasification Study

17 January 2013

Synthesis Energy Systems Green Chemicals from Waste Gasification Study


Sponsored by

Houston, Texas based Synthesis Energy Systems (NASDAQ: SYMX), which specialises in the use of gasification to produce energy and fuels, has entered into an agreement with an undisclosed U.S. company to assess the feasibility and optimal uses of its gasification technology to produce ‘green’ chemicals from waste.

Under the agreement Synthesis Energy Systems (SES) said that it is to lead an engineering study, commissioned and funded by the undisclosed company, which will define an optimal use of potential feedstock combinations such as used tires, auto shredder residue and refuse-derived fuel to produce commercially viable chemicals such as methanol and methanol derivatives.

The company explained that the facilities being considered would be expected to have an attractive environmental footprint, as they would process these waste streams with an exceptionally low emissions profile.

SES added that the plants would also have the potential to include nearly complete carbon capture capability.

Fluor Enterprises – a global engineering, procurement, maintenance and construction company – will assist SSE in its efforts.

According to Robert Rigdon, president and CEO of SES, the company’s technology offers the ability to divert wastes from landfill in an environmentally responsible way to produce a variety of high value products.

“Together with Fluor, we plan to use our in-house expertise, intellectual property, and operations experience and to complete the study, which we are hopeful, could form the basis of a technology, equipment and services supply business to meet this growing need,” he explained.

Solena Fuels Presentation BA Green Sky Project

British Airways Green Sky project

Solena  Municipal waste to jetfuel  No ash No Landfill

Financial Times   January 4, 2013 5:46 pm   Abramovich invests in ‘gas-to-liquids’ in UK  By Guy Chazan

Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, has invested £5m in a small UK technology company that specialises in turning natural gas into synthetic liquid fuels. Mr Abramovich’s Ervington Investments took part in a placing this week by Oxford Catalysts, which raised £30.6m. He bought 4m shares at 125p a share, giving him a 3.5 per cent stake in the Aim-quoted company. The shares closed on Friday at 155p.

Oxford Catalysts’ business is focused on a technology known as “gas-to-liquids” or GTL, which uses chemical reactions to physically change the composition of gas molecules, yielding a high-quality liquid fuel. This can then be blended with crude or upgraded to produce diesel or jet fuel. GTL is based on the so-called Fischer-Tropsch process, pioneered in Germany during the 1920s and later used by the Nazis during the second world war to turn coal into badly needed petroleum. Later, South Africa adopted the technology as a UN-led embargo against the country’s apartheid regime blocked oil imports.

Royal Dutch Shell has led the revival of global interest in GTL, building a huge refinery in Qatar called Pearl which turns the emirate’s abundant natural gas into an odourless, colourless fuel similar to diesel but without the sooty pollutants. It is now considering building a GTL plant in the US, where the boom in shale gas has provided a cheap and plentiful feedstock. Oxford Catalysts is spearheading a different approach, focusing on the construction of small, modular GTL plants which can be deployed at remote oilfields. These convert gas that is extracted as a byproduct of oil and would otherwise be simply burnt off or “flared” into the atmosphere. Other companies are working on similar approaches: the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras is piloting a small reactor developed by CompactGTL for some of its offshore oil installations. Roy Lipski, chief executive of Oxford Catalysts, said, “We are delighted to welcome new investors Ervington Investments and Invesco on board along with our existing institutional shareholders. We look forward to building on our selection for two commercial projects and to commercialising our GTL technology in the oil & gas sector.”

Oxford Catalysts was spun out of Oxford university and floated on AIM in 2006. It took off two years later when it acquired US-based Velocys. a leading designer of chemical reactors. Velocys is providing the reactors for GreenSky London, a venture between British Airways and Solena Fuels Corp. which will convert waste destined for landfill into low-carbon jet fuel and biodiesel.

Mr Abramovich, who made his fortune in the Russian oil industry, has recently made a number of investments in clean tech. Last November, his vehicle, Ervington Investments, injected £8.67m in UK-based AFC Energy, which specialises in industrial fuel cell technology. It has also invested in energy-from-waste company Waste2tricity and Alter NRG, which converts organic matter into synthetic gas using plasma technologies.

Oxford Catalysts Selected for GreenSky London Commercial Plant

Oxford Catalysts Group PLC, the leading technology innovator for synthetic fuels production, is pleased to announce that it has been selected by Solena Fuels Corporation (“Solena”) to supply their GreenSky London waste-biomass to jet fuel project, whose leading partner is British Airways. GreenSky London has been established to create Europe’s first commercial scale sustainable jet fuel facility.

After a formal evaluation of available technologies performed by Fluor Corporation on behalf of Solena, the Group was selected by Solena as the sole supplier of Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) technology for GreenSky London. In addition, Solena has entered into an understanding with the Group for the supply of FT units to its future Biomass to Liquids (“BTL”) projects with many of the world’s leading airlines and shipping companies, including GreenSky California, Rome and Stockholm.

British Airways is working with Solena to establish Europe’s first sustainable jet fuel plant, GreenSky London, and intends to use the low-carbon fuel to power part of its fleet as of 2015. Successful implementation of the GreenSky London project and receipt of the order will generate revenues to the Group in excess of $30 million (during the construction phase to 2015), and additional ongoing revenues of more than $50 million over the first fifteen years of the plant’s operation.   http//

British Airways pledges 10-year offtake agreement as GreenSky project with Solena gathers momentum
British Airways pledges 10-year offtake agreement as GreenSky project with Solena gathers momentum | Solena,Oxford Catalysts,Fluor

Artist’s impression of proposed Solena facility

Fri 30 Nov 2012 – The British Airways and Solena GreenSky London project to build a sustainable jet biofuel facility in East London is gaining momentum, say the two partners. They won’t reveal the location but an exclusive option on a site for the facility and consent work has begun, with the aim of having it operational and in production by 2015. The airline has now confirmed its commitment to purchasing, at “market competitive” prices, the anticipated 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel produced annually by the plant for the next 10 years, which equates to around $500 million at today’s price for conventional jet kerosene. Barclays has been appointed as advisor to explore the optimal funding through export credit agencies and the consortium providing the facility’s key technology functions has also been announced. British Airways expects enough sustainable fuel be produced to power two per cent of its fleet departing from London Airports.

“We are delighted that the GreenSky London project is getting ever closer to fruition,” said Keith Williams, the Chief Executive of British Airways, which is aiming to reduce its net carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. “With world-class technology partners now in place, we are well on our way to making sustainable aviation fuel a reality by 2015.”

Around 500,000 tonnes of municipal waste normally sent to landfills will be converted annually into 50,000 tonnes of biodiesel, bionaphtha and renewable power at the facility as well as the 16 million gallons of jet fuel. Solena Fuels Corporation will provide the proprietary high-temperature gasification process that converts the waste into synthetic gas and the overall Integrated Biomass Gasification to Liquids (IBGTL) solution.

The Fischer-Tropsch reactors and catalyst that will convert the cleaned synthetic gas into liquid hydrocarbons, such as diesel and jet fuel, will be supplied by Oxford Catalysts. Marketed under the brand name Velocys, the company says its systems are significantly smaller than those using conventional technology, enabling modular plants that can be deployed more cost-effectively in remote locations and on smaller scales than is possible with competing systems. Fluor Corporation, which has extensive international experience in project execution and biofuel projects, is providing engineering services to support Solena and has started the pre-front end engineering and design for the project.

On the financing, a Competitive Letter of Interest has been obtained from one of the export credit agencies, including associated term funding. More than 150 jobs are expected to be created to operate the facility, with 1,000 workers involved during the construction.

An independent life-cycle assessment by UK-based North Energy Associates of the Solena jet biofuel showed that greenhouse gas savings exceeded both the 60% requirement of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the 50% minimum of the methodology established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).

“Our GreenSky London project will provide clean, sustainable fuels at market competitive prices that will help address British Airways’ sustainability goals,” said Dr Robert Do, CEO of Solena. “The British Airways offtake agreement represents the largest advanced biofuel commitment ever made by an airline and clearly demonstrates the airline’s leadership and vision in achieving its carbon emission reduction targets.”

Solena Fuels
British Airways – Biofuels

Lufthansa and Solena sign biofuels MoU

September 14th, 2012 by Victoria

Lufthansa has signed a MoU with Solena Fuels Corporation to work to produce a sustainable biofuel source. Solena has identified a site for its first Sustainable Biofuel Facility in Germany at the PCK Industry Park in Schwedt/Oder. The project will sell to Lufthansa the bio synthetic paraffinic kerosene (Bio-SPK) produced by the facility as a drop-in, certified jet fuel with the aim to be prospectively used on commercial flights. The project will be a first of its kind in Central Europe providing large scale diversion of waste from landfills and incinerators into synthetic biofuels to be used on commercial basis.

“Lufthansa is pleased to assist Solena in developing its first plant in Germany and is working towards a long-term, bankable offtake agreement with Solena Fuels,” stated Joachim Buse, Vice President Aviation Biofuels for Lufthansa. Mr. Buse continued, “We believe that Solena’s capabilities to process multiple types of waste feedstock represent a good opportunity in our endeavor to meet our emission reduction commitments.”

The facility will convert more than 520,000 tonnes of waste biomass into jet fuel, diesel fuel and electricity. Solena and Lufthansa have signed a MoU for the joint development of a sustainable alternative fuel supply which would include delivery to Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

“Solena Fuels is excited to be partnering with Lufthansa in the development of a sustainable biofuels facility in Germany,” stated Dr. Robert Do, CEO of Solena Fuels. “Lufthansa has been a pioneer in the biofuels industry and we are pleased to see their support to FT-SPK, an industry accepted fuel which meets and exceeds ETS standards based on both Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) schemes and Renewable Energy Directive (RED) methodology for Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) evaluation”, continued Dr. Do

PARIS: Airlines join forces to buy waste-derived biofuel

By: Kerry Reals Paris

03:41 20 Jun 2011


A group of 10 airlines has teamed up to sign letters of intent with US bioenergy firm Solena to purchase alternative jet fuel derived from waste biomass from 2015.

The group, which is led by American Airlines and United Airlines, also includes Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, FedEx, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines and US Airways.

Under the agreement, Solena’s GreenSky California biomass-to-liquids facility will supply the airlines with 1,000 barrels a day of jet fuel derived from urban and agricultural waste, said United Airlines managing director strategic sourcing-fuel Robert Sturtz.

The fuel will be divided among the airlines as a “proportional split based on the size of the carrier”, and will be burned as a 50/50 blend with traditional kerosene, said Sturtz. It will be taken by truck from Solena’s plant in northern California – which will be built in 2013 – to airports in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, where the aircraft will be fuelled.

“This is an intent to purchase which will eventually become individual fuel supply agreements between each individual airline and Solena,” said Sturtz, adding that the deal will be finalised “over the next year”.

The Solena plant will produce up to 16 million gal of neat jet fuel a year by 2015, converting about 550,000 metric tons of waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill into fuel through the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Solena, SAS partner for aviation biofuels project at Stockholm Airport

| October 11, 2011

Solena and SAS announced a partnership to develop a waste-to-jet fuel project at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, with a goal of establishing similar projects in Denmark and Norway.

The Arlanda project will gasify waste biomass, including municipal solid waste, and process the resulting syngas it into bio-based synthetic paraffinic kerosene, or renewable jet fuel. Solena, which had previously announced a 14 million gallon biofuels project with British Airways, in which BA would take an equity stake, and said that the SAS project would have similar characteristics. Solena and Qantas also recently announced a development effort.

AvioNews – Agreement between Alitalia and Solena Group

Rome, Italy – To start a study on the reconversion of metropolitan solid waste in bio-fuel for

(WAPA) – Alitalia’s CEO Rocco Sabelli, CEO of Solena Group Robert Do and the one of Solena Italia Stefano Bugliosi, signed a letter of intent with which Alitalia and Solena Group commit themselves to start a feasibility study about the building of a plant capable of converting urban solid waste (promiscuous bio-masses) in a relevant share of the jet-fuel required for aircraft of Alitalia, ensuring the reduction of greenhouse gases and the stability of supplies. The signing of the agreement was attended by the Honorable Willer Bordon, president of Enalg SpA, company partner of Solena Group SpA and holding of Solena Italia SpA.

The study is finalised to assess the feasibility of a plant capable of converting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of urban solid waste (promiscuous bio-mass) in bio fuel for aircraft, in order to meet part of the fuel needs of Alitalia, reducing the consumption of conventional jet fuel with the consequent reduction (up to 96%) of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

The use of Solena Group’s technology will allow to produce alternative fuel for aircraft, through an high temperature gasification process of the waste that will be transformed into a so-called “Syngas”. This gas then will be converted into liquid thanks to an industrial chemical process called Fischer-Tropsch.

Download PDF : BA%20Solena%20Arcadis16.07.2010



Mr Dennis Miller Solena Fuels

Dear Dennis,

Thanks for your reply yesterday.

The HKG proposed incinerator consultants are AECOM.

Herewith attached  please see quotes from AECOM regarding gasification.

It seems AECOM will write anything the client directs them to write rather than ‘consulting’ or advising the client.

One would presume that part of the AECOM’s study submission would be data on the moisture content of local MSW and construction waste.

It is a known study fact that the major emissions (over 60% per year) of dioxins from incinerators are when on startup or shutdown for maintenance or breakdown or flue flyash cleanout.

This happens due to a lower burn temperature and the presence of plastics / chlorines in the MSW mix.

The burn temperature is also affected by the presence of MSW that is too wet.  I would doubt that operator Chan Fat working on the nightshift at the 2022 incinerator would bother to adjust burn temperatures.

‘Incinerators have to be shut down on occasion, both for routine maintenance and because of operating problems. It has been observed that during shutdown and startup, the levels of dioxins and other pollutants can be much higher than under optimal operation. Tejima et al [2007] tested the dioxin stack emissions of an MSW incinerator under conditions of startup, steady state and shutdown. They found concentrations of WHO-TEQ dioxin of 36 – 709 mg.m-3 during startup, 2.3 mg.m-3 during steady state operation, and 2.5 – 49 mg.m-3 during shutdown. They estimated that 41% of the total annual emissions could be attributed to the startup period, assuming three startups per year. L.-C. Wang et al [2007] found that a single startup could contribute about 60% of the PCDD/F emissions for one whole year of normal operations; hence, assuming three startups per year, 64% of total annual emissions could come from startup.

As regards your biodiesel comments please see here:

Hong Kong uses Euro V diesel with an extremely low sulphur content. The major problem is NOx emissions in overdeveloped urban canyons the winds cannot reach to disperse.

The previous maladministration mandated fitting soot traps for the older buses but seemed unaware that such units also require the fitting of SCR units since the soot traps increase NOx emissions.

It took a University report to educate them to this fact.

One of our major thoroughfares is Nathan Road and the EPD has estimated that 44% of pollution on that road is caused by buses. Too many routes end up on the same thoroughfares in Mongkok, Causeway Bay and Central. The Government could have mandated certain roads/areas as ‘Clean Air Zones’ where only Euro V, V1, hybrid or electric shuttle buses are permitted entry. All routes should terminate outside the problem areas with hybrid shuttles plying those routes. We are still waiting for the imposition of Clean Air Zones. Buses drive around 95% empty  for 80% of the day and are basically moving advertising billboards, albeit a highly convenient service.

Anyway I hope Government take heed of new technology like yours and do not bury their blinkered heads in the ground.



Plasma Gasification in Renewable Power Generation Michael Zebell Aecom


Air Products second gasplasma plant



Joint venture company plans £75 million gasification plant in Teesside

by Paul Sanderson

A £75 million gasification plant could be built in Teesside following a joint venture between Teesside company Scott Brothers and Devon firm O2N.

The facility would generate 14MW of energy from 160,000 tonnes of household waste with the firms saying it would be the largest of its type in the UK.

Finance discussions are already well advanced, and subject to planning permission it could be up and running by 2015.

Air Products recently announced that it plans to construct a similar facility in the region.

Scott Brothers Group managing director Frank Cooke said: “Often with gasification technology in the UK projects turn out to be long-term and difficult to get off the ground.

This is an American design. There are more than 20 similar ones in operation around the world, particularly in Scandinavia and Germany. It’s a tried and tested technology.

“There are some in the UK, but none of this size at the moment. We are in well advanced discussions on finance. We are also talking to both national and local waste suppliers.

“The majority of the electricity created could be used by local chemical companies.”

AECOM will design, construct, procure and operate the facility that will be located on an industrial site formerly belonging to ICI.

Download PDF : Brian-Thompson-WESTINGHOUSE-PLASMA A


Interview with EnergyPark Peterborough

FINAL Waste to Gas Pilot Project press release 22 Feb 2012 A

UK Transforming urban waste into sustainable material and energy usage

Transforming urban waste into sustainable material and energy usage: The case of Greater Manchester. Original Research Article
Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 13 December 2012, Pages
Elvira Uyarra, Sally Gee

“… the paper describes how Greater Manchester (UK) underwent a transformation from a relatively simple landfill model to a highly complex, multi-technology waste solution based on intensive recycling and composting, and sustainable energy usage. The case is relevant because the UK has long been seen as a laggard when it comes to sustainable waste practices. The 1999 EU landfill directive exerted great pressure to change waste practices in the UK. Against the national trend of incineration with energy recovery, Greater Manchester opted instead for a solution that was deemed more innovative and sustainable, but which involved overcoming significant technological, political and financial challenges. The paper investigates the process that led to this purposive transformation, characterized by a mix of political vision, stakeholder engagement, economies of scale, and the ability of waste disposal managers to gather expertise, resources, political influence and commitment at multiple levels of governance.”

Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program


Sweden’s waste incineration plants generate 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating. (Photo by Vattenfall via Flickr CC.)

Sweden’s successful waste-to-energy program converts household waste into energy for heating and electricity. But they’ve run into an unusual problem: they simply aren’t generating enough trash to power the incinerators, so they’ve begun importing waste from European neighbors.

When it comes to recycling, Sweden is incredibly successful. Just four percent of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants.

Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings. It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes.

According to Swedish Waste Management, Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants, and energy recovery from waste incineration has increased dramatically just over the last few years.

The problem is, Sweden’s waste recycling program is too successful.

Catarina Ostlund, Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said the country is producing much less burnable waste than it needs.

“We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration,” Ostlund said.

However, they’ve recently found a solution.

Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. The majority of the imported waste comes from neighboring Norway because it’s more expensive to burn the trash there and cheaper for the Norwegians to simply export their waste to Sweden.

In the arrangement, Norway pays Sweden to take the waste off their hands and Sweden also gets electricity and heat. But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway.

This arrangement works particularly well for Sweden, since in Sweden the energy from the waste is needed for heat. According to Ostlund, when both heat and electricity are used, there’s much higher efficiency for power plants.

“So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency. But I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more so maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,” Ostlund said.

Ostlund said Sweden hopes that in the future Europe will build its own plants so it can manage to take care of its own waste.

“I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste,” Ostlund said.

In fact, landfilling remains the principal way of disposal in those countries, but new waste-to-energy initiatives have been introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

It is also important, Ostlund notes, for Sweden to find ways to reduce its own waste in the future.

“This is not a long-term solution really, because we need to be better to reuse and recycle, but in the short perspective I think it’s quite a good solution,” Ostlund concluded.

Biomass Incineration | Energy Justice Network

See how much CO2 MSW incineration creates

Trash and biomass incineration are far worse for the climate than coal, per unit of energy produced.

Trash incineration releases 2.5 times as much CO2 as coal, and 55% more if you pretend that the biogenic* part doesn’t count.  Biomass is nearly 50% worse than coal.  This is based on the latest U.S. EPA eGRID 2012 data (2009 data, released in May 2012).
Please note that, especially with the practice of fracking, natural gas is actually worse than coal for global warming, if you count all of the methane leakage from extraction to pipelines to end uses.  This chart is just for smokestack emissions, but for the whole picture on global warming pollution from gas vs. coal, see:

* The “biogenic doesn’t count” (a.k.a. “carbon neutrality”) argument relies on the assumption that the extra pulse of carbon pollution is instantly sucked up by trees grown specifically to offset the emissions from the trees burned. In reality, it takes centuries to become “zero” and about 40 years for biomass to become only as bad as coal. That figure, from a study done for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, caused that state to adopt the strictest limits on biomass incineration in the nation, making it basically ineligible for renewable energy credits. Studies on this can be found in the links on the right sidebar on our biomass page: