Biomass and Waste-to-Energy

Two key advances in renewable energy technology are Biomass and Waste-to-Energy (WtE).

Biomass is broadly speaking defined as the processing of crops and organic matter for energy generation.

This can be by Anaerobic Digestion (AD) taking animal faeces and other natural matter and introducing bacteria, stimulating a fermenting process then drawing off the flammable gases in a Combined Heat and Power (*CHP) process.

*CHP is the process of using direct and indirect heat produced as a by-product of industry and combining it with a method of generating electricity. As much as two-thirds of all energy generated burning fossil fuels is lost to the atmosphere, making a strong case for employing CHP anywhere and everywhere possible in the fuel cycle. CHP is versatile and can also be used via heat exchangers to cool in air conditioning systems or ‘CCHP’.

Biomass/Ethanol Crops
Another common use of biomass is the distillation of crops to create gasoline-like liquids.

Although this is much more environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels, regenerating arable land and producing fewer pollutants, we cannot escape the fact that this still involves combustion and creating greenhouse gases. Anaerobic Digestion tends to use waste material which would otherwise be discarded, whereas biomass distillate is often produced by dedicated crops, thus is a conscious act extending the business of incineration and as such its ecological credentials can be questioned.

Biomass Pellet Technology

An exciting recent development combining biomass and WtE is the processing of organic waste including human sewage into multi-use dry pellets.

Biomass pellets are relatively easy to produce, require minimal technology or skilled oversight, can be stored for long periods with very little deterioration and used either as a fertiliser or as a combustible CHP fuel source.

A further advantage of biomass pellet technology is that with manipulation during initial processing extremely high incineration temperatures can be achieved which virtually eliminates pollutants and residuals. The high temperatures also open up a wide range of possible industrial uses with resultant benefits to the wider economy.

Wots Hot®Energy works closely with biomass and pellet technology suppliers and we are happy to discuss, advise and provide according to your needs.

For more information on Wots Hot Energy’s case studies with biomass and what we can do for you contact us here.

Waste-to-Energy (WtE) is both incredibly exciting and absolutely necessary for the entire human race to embrace.

Gasification is the processing of waste at very high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Whilst expensive and technologically complex, gasification can reduce waste to literally almost nothing which cannot be used.

Emissions from plastics are filtered and refined into syngas, a synthetic low-polluting flammable gas for CHP.

Metals are reduced to easily recyclable material, and remaining aggregates can be used in construction.

Gasification is a one-stop-shop for recycling waste products.

A further advantage of gasification is the adaptable and flexible closed incineration environment which means that each batch of waste can be separately graded and individually processed at the optimum temperature and agitation for a measured length of time.

For example, a hospital disposing of medical waste will have different recycling and combusting requirements to Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) or Commercial and Industrial waste (CI). A gasification plant can control and fine-tune the processing of each individual batch of waste up to several tonnes and/or cubic metres, alternating settings with a simple flick of a switch on a pre-programmed control panel.

Wots Hot®Energy is closely associated with a leading international gasification provider. For more information contact us here.

Landfill and Recycling
One of the problems in dealing with waste is the generations-old tacit acceptance that we can simply throw waste away and ignore it, contending that the world is big enough for it not to matter.

This is no longer the case (if it ever was). There are too many people generating too much waste for the planet to sustain us healthily much longer unless we change course.

There is now more plastic waste in the world’s oceans than the entire weight of all the fish in the sea.

Let that sink in a moment.

Scary. However, there is a solution: recycle!

More waste is being created every day, however with progressive government policies and effective legislation, in theory, all of it could be recycled.

Way-Stations and Waste Pickers

The world’s poorest communities can show us the way when it comes to recycling. When resources are scarce, literally everything which can be salvaged is a base economic reality.

With well thought through environmental policies waste can both sustain local poverty-stricken communities in a safe and sustainable manner, as well as reducing the amount sent for more expensive reprocessing.

Wots Hot®Energy has created case studies for national governments and private industry where landfill has blighted valuable urban land and degenerated into a cycle of depravation for local communities living off the waste of society.

A particular case study involved an integrated waste processing system which uses the private sector to collect Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), delivering it to secure covered way-stations. Here local waste pickers take the most useful and immediately reusable waste in a safe and secure regulated environment. This allows a basic living to be earned, simultaneously reducing the overall amount of waste which then is transported on to a second location for processing. Long term the practice of waste picking should be discouraged however this can be a useful transition for communities who rightly or wrongly balk at the thought of losing what may often be their only income.

A further benefit of this approach is that way-stations can be located close to existing urban communities thus preventing their break up, whilst the full processing and recycling plant(s) can be centralised for maximum efficiency and removed to appropriate locations away from human habitation. This frees up landfill for urban regeneration which often due to large population expansions of recent decades has encroached upon or been entirely surrounded by the urban sprawl of major cities and towns.

For more information on Wots Hot®Energy’s case studies on landfill and recycling and what we can do for you contact us here.

Methane Recapture
Another remedial technology which can be used in WtE is methane recapture.

The natural process of decaying waste in landfill often releases flammable gases which permeate into the soil and surrounding aquifers, poisoning groundwater supplies and releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere.

Some landfill is fortuitously located on non-permeable land such as heavy clay, which reduces distributed pollution, and gases largely remain in the landfill before dissipating into the air.

This is a potential hazard as a common problem with landfill particularly in developing nations is the propensity for these flammable gases to ignite, often causing loss of life and severe pollution as the surrounding waste burns in an uncontrolled manner.

One solution is to capture the methane and other flammable gases by plunging pipes deep into the waste and connecting them to a ring main where the gases can be drawn off, filtered, processed and ultimately used in a CHP solution.

Where the ground is porous landfill can be artificially lined to create the same effect keeping the methane within the landfill to be drawn out and processed.

This is a relatively simple and cost-effective solution which has the advantage of generating income from the landfill offsetting or even paying for the entire upkeep of the site thus saving municipal authorities large sums of public money.

For more information on Wots Hot®Energy’s case studies on methane recapture and what we can do for you contact us here.