INTO A PATH TO SUSTAINABLE ENERGY Alessandro Bertacchini from Turboden Spa looks at the issue of converting waste to energy


he waste-to-energy industry has gone global. Demand for this

technology continues to increase because it simultaneously tackles two issues: huge levels of household and industrial waste, as well as the need to decarbonise the energy sector. Unlike established renewables such as solar and wind, the waste-to-energy solution simultaneously mitigates two global crises: waste and CO2


The daily production of new and excessive levels of household and industrial waste is quickly becoming one of the most daunting issues that governments must confront. The UK government recently declared a ‘climate emergency’ and set a target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has been acknowledged that if climate change is not addressed, we face catastrophe; waste is a major contributor to this with experts predicting that humans will generate 11 million tonnes of solid waste each day by the close of this century*. As a result, waste-to-energy technology solutions – which produce electric and thermal power from waste - is a growing trend, with the global market predicted to grow to $35.5bn by 2024. Growth has been led by the Asia-Pacific region where take-up of waste-to-energy solutions are expected to double by 2020. In Asia, rapid population growth, changing consumption patterns and large-scale migration to densely packed cities, where the bulk of the region’s population lives, has significantly increased the volume of urban and industrial waste produced. Incineration is currently the most

commonly used method of the waste management market, as it removes the cost of transporting refuse to landfill sites. However, Asian governments are increasingly acknowledging the need for greener solutions. Japan was an early adopter of WTE technology, and the first plant in the country was built in 1965. Since then, most major cities have developed a WTE system. For example, Tokyo has 23 plants that produce enough energy to power themselves and sell excess energy back to the grid. In Osaka a quarter of the cities’ waste is managed through a $700m WTE plant. China is also becoming a leading country in terms of renewables investment,


supported by government policies to encourage sustainable development, which is driving China’s WTE sector. In the city of Shenzhen, the government is constructing the world’s largest WTE plant, with an expected daily capacity to incinerate 5,000 tonnes of the city’s vast trash problem from 2020. Captured residual heat from the incinerator drives a turbine which generates electricity as a by-product of the waste management process. The process roughly halves the amount of CO2

typically released from landfill sites,

according to the architects leading the Shenzhen project. The facility represents just one of 300 WTE plants planned by China’s government to be built over the coming three years. These projects are only set to increase in number as governments acknowledge the need to champion sustainable solutions and tackle issues such as waste head-on. The real benefit of waste-to-energy solutions is that they are both efficient and cost-effective since they address two issues. Hence China and India are looking for new ways to enact this technology. This drive is being echoed in Europe too. The European WTE market is also on the rise as producers across the continent adopt more efficient initiatives to manage household trash and commercial waste. Waste-to-heat systems generate energy by processing different types of waste, including solid or semi-solid, excess gas and excess heat. One business which has been delivering

water will be employed to dry up the chicken litter (before its combustion). The system solves a major environmental issue, which had been causing tensions with the local community and polluting rivers, by creating clean energy out of this unwanted waste. ORC technology is also a solution to

The real benefit of waste-to-energy

solutions is that they are both efficient and cost-effective

dispose sludge in waste water treatment plants. In the city of Bucharest’s WWTP, two Turboden ORC are employed in two treatment lines to recover the sludge in accordance with national and European standards. Degremont Thermylis combustion technology, developed by SUEZ, will be used to significantly reduce the sludge volume produced by drying and then recovering energy with thermal oil heat exchangers and a production of electricity with ORC turbo generators by Turboden, used in part to power the plant. A similar system is in operation in

Russia’s oil industry, instead of solid or semi-solid waste, the facility processes residual heat from flare gas. International oil and gas company Lukoil uses a Turboden ORC system to provide electricity and hot water for its oil refinery by exploiting the flare gas. This is normally burnt off at the top of a torch. During each hour of operation, the ORC system prevents 720kg of CO2


reaching the atmosphere. While across the continent in Italy, Ori

waste to energy solutions is Turboden, a group company of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), a company producing Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems which generate electric and thermal power from waste. In Turkey for example, the country’s largest egg producer has installed Turboden’s Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) system, which converts heat from the combustion of chicken litter into electric power and hot water. While the electricity will be sold to the grid, the hot

Martin’s steel plant uses ORC turbine to capture residual heat from its manufacturing processes, which typically escape into the atmosphere. The energy that is captured is providing the local town of Brescia with electricity and heating. Similar ORC waste heat recovery systems are up and running in several energy intensive industries such as cement plants and glass factories worldwide. Such innovative projects are part of a steady migration of global attitudes towards cleaner, more sustainable production. Growing global awareness among governments and private operators for the need to find more efficient alternatives to traditional waste management, could be the catalyst that drives the future of the waste-to-energy sector.

* waste-on-pace-to-triple

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