Plasma Arc Gasification and Its Recyclable End-products and Energy Consumption

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There are a number of perceptions within the marketplace regarding plasma arc treatment and plasma arc gasification processes. Two weeks ago, this blog addressed the smaller physical footprint with regards to plasma arc gasification waste-to-energy systems.

This week we discuss the idea/claim regarding the plasma arc technology’s ability to generate significant useable recyclable end-products and energy with no residual waste.

Certainly this depends on the waste feedstock; however it is worth noting that if metals and glass are processed simultaneously in a plasma arc system, additional processing would be required to separate out these products for any re-use potential. The re-use of the vitrified slag product generated from to plasma arc systems has been demonstrated commercially in France and Japan.

Depending on the feedstock and moisture content and plasma utilization (combustion vs. plasma gasification/ plasma pyrolysis), to plasma arc gasification waste-to-energy systems can require significant amounts of energy to operate as such the net energy claims made by some within the industry may be overly optimistic in theory and largely unproven at this point in time in commercial operations. Criticizing the electrical loads associated with processing municipal solid waste in a plasma gasification waste-to-energy system may be valid as the primary goal would be net energy production, however when it comes to industrial, hazardous and universal waste treatment, the primary goal is destruction efficiency and thus the electrical consumption/generation should be considered secondary. Energy balances associated with to plasma-arc gasification waste-to-energy systems should to be reviewed on a project-by-project basis, rather than at a macro level within the industry.

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