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Thermal Processing of Domestic Solid Waste Part 2 of 2 – Conversion Processes

Walter R. Niessen, PE, BCEE

In the last two decades of the 20th century, environmental action groups and the regulatory community put the spotlight on air and ash emissions from municipal waste combustors (MWCs). This scrutiny and new data on the health effects of a wide spectrum of heavy metals and chemical compounds fostered vigorous opposition to proposed plants, to the adoption of increasingly stringent emission and ash management requirements and to other restrictive statutes at the federal, state and even the local level. One response in this adversarial environment is to develop altogether new thermal processing technologies that are inherently low in emissions yet still achieve the goal of minimizing landfill space consumption while accepting the wide range of feedstocks comprising MSW. One such class of new, environmentally benign technologies is based on the gasification of refuse coupled with intensive cleanup of the product gas. The members of this class have been given the name “Conversion Processes” by the waste management community. From an environmental viewpoint, the gasification technologies appear to represent a sound response to the regulatory challenges of U.S. EPA. However, economics has always been a critical and probably pacing factor affecting the commercial success of thermal processing technology along with performance acceptability (which most importantly focuses on on-line availability, achievement of guarantees and safety). These key cost and process characteristics will only be confidently known when commercial operation of conversion technologies has been demonstrated over an extended period of time.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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