Table of Contents
Opportunities Abound Due to Rising Landfill Cost and Proven Energy Conversion Technologies
-To understand the status and potential of waste-to-energy (including municipal solid waste, biomass, and biogas) in Australia
-To understand the challenges facing waste-to-energy project developments
-To outline the relevant regulatory framework at national and state level
-To forecast an indicative timeframe for large scale MSW investment
-To identify critical success factors for MSW waste-to-energy projects in Australia
-To provide benchmarking scenarios with Europe and North America
This research service is based on interviews with MSW project developers, state Environment Protection Agencies, waste management experts, and literature review from local and global resources.
The responses, findings, and analysis are woven through the study.
-Waste-to-energy (WTE) includes methods by which the valuable energy entrapped in waste is extracted, for the production of electricity and heat.
-Waste from cities contains a large amount of biological and renewable materials — a source of renewable energy. As a result, energy-from-waste contributes to energy security and diversification, and helps address the growing demand for renewable energy in a carbon constrained world.
-Extracting energy from waste has broad applications – ranging from direct combustion of dry wastes such as sawdust, rice husks, and palm oil kernels on-site in boilers to provide cheap process heat for factories; using sugarcane processing residue (bagasse) as feedstock for heat and power generation; using animal waste to generate biogas; incinerate municipal waste directly to generate heat and power, using landfill gas as feedstock to generate power.
-Where biomass residues (corn cobs, tree bark, forest residues, wood chips, or animal fat) have already been delivered to a processing site along with the primary product (corn kernels, pulp logs or meat), the biomass value, dollar per GigaJoule ($/GJ) is usually very competitive, particularly where there may even be an avoided disposal cost.
According to the only existing policy on energy conversion from waste (issued by New South Wales Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the following wastes are considered eligible to be used as waste-to-energy feedstock:
-Biomass from agriculture
-Residues from plantation forestry and sawmilling operations
-Uncontaminated wood waste
-Recovered waste oil and tallow
-Waste from virgin paper pulp activities
-Coal washery rejects
-Landfill and biogas In addition, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 - under section xx - sets out what is an eligible renewable energy source. Several biogenic wastes are eligible for obtaining large scale generation certificates for accredited power stations. These eligible renewable energy sources include:
-Waste from processing of agricultural products
-Food processing waste
-Biomass-based components of municipal solid waste
-Biomass-based components of sewage
There are unavoidable overlaps between energy conversion technologies from municipal solid waste and other types of waste, especially when technology developers endeavour to expand application areas. For example, improved pyrolysis technology has the potential to treat part of municipal solid waste for biochar.
-Rising energy prices, carbon tax, rising landfill cost in major capital cities, and growing environmental concerns have led to an increased interest in renewable sources of electricity generation.
-Cost- and technology-competitive MSW power generation has yet to reach maturity due to regulatory, technological, and public opposition issues. The concerns for the environmental condition adjacent to their homes prevail, irrespective of the actual emissions impact of a proposed plant, thus making it difficult for new plant projects to pass the community consultation stage. The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Waste Management and Resource Efficiency (2006) also concluded that waste policy should maximise net community benefits (as opposed to resource efficiency).
-The first specific policy for energy generation from waste in the country is expected to be finalised in January 2014 by the New South Wales Environment Protection Agency. In this version, the technical criteria are expected to be lowered based on feedback from industry and community to the draft policy.
-The first large scale MSW power generation plant is in the process of obtaining licenses and contract signing with local councils for waste supply. It has yet to demonstrate its minimum environmental impact.
-The large scale MSW power generation segment is expected to witness rapid growth after 2018 with the successful commissioning of first plants, the finalisation of supportive regulation, and more importantly, the exhaustion of landfill space in populated east coast capital cities.
-In addition, the relatively low energy recovery potential from anaerobic digestion (100–150 kWh/tonne of MSW) and the expensive requirement to landfill the bulk of the solid product from such processes (due to contamination from glass, sharps), is another reason why thermal WTE is the predominant technological solution for maximising the diversion of food, organics, plastic, and paper away from landfill.
-‘Other’ wastes (biomass and biogas) power generation has been broadly adopted because of abundant availability of appropriate wastes and mature power generation technologies. Nevertheless, stronger incentives from government are required for the sector to pick up more rapidly.
-The NSW and WA experience with anaerobic and aerobic digestion processes for processing organic waste shows that biological processes are typically costly and achieve only ‘partial volume reduction’ processes, which do not significantly increase waste diversion rates or energy recovery.
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