Rolf Stein, CEO of Advanced Plasma Power, talks to AZoM about an innovative method of syngas production, which also produces material for the construction industry. Interview conducted by G.P. Thomas.
GT: Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that Advanced Plasma Power works within and outline the key drivers?
RS: The European Union has set a number of targets to address climate change, energy security and the critical status of our waste management process, all of which are growing problems as populations swell and competition for resources increases. EU directives are seeking to address these challenges; the UK is required to generate 15% of its energy generation from renewable sources by 2020 and also reduce biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to 35% of 1995 levels. The energy from waste industry is striving to help the UK meet these targets by diverting waste from landfill to generating renewable energy and heat.
GT: Could you please give a brief overview of Advanced Plasma Power?
RS: APP has developed a unique and patented advanced gasification process that uses waste to generate electricity and heat. APP has been operating its demonstration plant in Swindon since 2008.
GT: Could you explain the process behind the Gasplasma technology?
RS: APP has developed its Gasplasma® enhanced energy-from-waste technology, which is a proven, scalable and commercially viable means of generating renewable energy and heat. APP’s technology is the only existing process to combine two technologies in optimal conditions to maximise the efficiency of the gasification process ensuring there are no waste outputs and minimal emissions and environmental impact.
All non recyclable materials are shredded and dried to create Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), which is transformed into an unrefined synthesis gas (syngas) in the gasifier. The Plasma Converter then breaks down all organic long chain hydrocarbons producing a very clean, hydrogen-rich syngas – much cleaner than syngas produced by other technologies. This syngas is then used, for instance, in a power island to generate electricity.
The main outputs of the process are: a syngas, which can be used to generate electricity in gas engines or gas turbines, heat for use in local domestic and industrial buildings (or processes) and Plasmarok®, a solid product for use in construction.
GT: What are the applications of the resulting syngas?
RS: The syngas can be used to generate electricity directly in gas engines, gas turbines and/or fuel cells or it can be converted into hydrogen or other gaseous or liquid fuels.
Furthermore the syngas can be converted into bio-substitute natural gas (Bio-SNG) for injection into the national gas grid and distributed as a domestic and commercial heat/energy source. It is estimated that renewable gas, of which Bio-SNG could be a major source, could satisfy as much as one fifth of the UK’s heat demand (National Grid Gone Green 2050 scenario). APP entered into an agreement with National Grid in April 2012 to build a demonstration plant delivering an end-to-end process for the production of bio-SNG from waste.
GT: The solid material produced via this process is Plasmarok – could you please give an overview of this material and its applications?
RS: All inorganic materials resulting from the process are made inert and vitrified into an environmentally benign product call Plasmarok®. The UK Environment Agency classifies it as a product not a waste, which can be sold for instance as an aggregate for construction, generating additional revenue streams.
GT: Are the physical properties of Plasmarok comparable to other building materials?
RS: Yes, the Plasmarok has to comply with the same physical and mechanical testing standards as materials produced from primary sources.
GT: Is the process scalable?
RS: The plant process is designed to be modular and scalable so it can be easily installed unobtrusively on the edge of towns and cities; the plant is intended to be local, providing waste management and energy supply for local communities. The plant fits into a standard industrial warehouse as seen in most edge of town business parks and has very low emissions. This reduces the distances waste needs to be transported and maximises the potential for heat recovery and use. The Gasplasma® process complies with the European Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) as it relates to EU plants and employs emissions control technology that ensures that these emission limits are easily met, so it can be sited near population hubs without any impact on human health or the local environment.
GT: Where are you current projects situated?
RS: APP’s demonstration plant has been operating in Swindon since 2008 and the company has an active project pipeline, including a number of waste to energy projects in the UK, Europe and around the World.
GT: Do you have any plans to expand operations in the near future?
RS: We will expand as we move forward with our project pipeline.
GT: Advanced Plasma Power is a carbon negative company – could you please explain the idea of ‘carbon negative’ and how this is achieved?
RS: The carbon savings that are attainable from the APP Gasplasma process have been independently evaluated for APP by the consultant, Wardell Armstrong. The process lifecycle analysis was undertaken under standard (EU-ETS and DEFRA) Carbon reporting methodologies. Various scenarios were considered in quantifying the net Green House Gas (GHG) emission flux from the Gasplasma system. The baseline scenario considered energy recovery by way of the utilisation of Combined Heat and Power, CHP plant at projected net energy efficiency (NEF) of 67.2 %. The CHP mode of the plant is integral to the process as waste heat recovery boilers are designed into the process and provide all of the steam required by the process whilst also producing power from a steam turbine.
In the case of this base-line scenario the Gasplasma process attained a very low CO2 equivalent emission value, with an overall carbon negative footprint of -779 kg CO2 eq/ tonne MSW input, this equates to -433 kg CO2 eq/ MWh based on a Net CV factor of 9.62 GJ/T MSW Input3. The level of -433 kg CO2 eq/ MWh can be compared to conventional generation related emissions which for grid consumed electrical power is +547 kg CO2 eq/ MWh3 – this figure is based on a rolling average as specified by DEFRA considering all UK generation sources both fossil and non-fossil derived as from Coal, Natural Gas, Fuel oil, Nuclear and Renewables. Therefore the APP Gasplasma process can be viewed as being a negative emission source in regard to a comparison to average electrical power generation from the UK national grid.
GT: What are the further environmental benefits of using Advanced Plasma Power’s process?
RS: The most notable benefits from the Gasplasma® process are the significant reductions in carbon emissions as compared with incineration or landfill. APP’s process is very efficient and it puts every output to use with very limited environmental impact. Furthermore the many applications ensure that the technology can be used in applications beyond waste to energy.
The production of renewable fuels from waste will be important as will improvements in energy generation efficiency, which will allow a reduction in the cost of managing our waste and even make the mining of landfill sites for the recovery of material and fuels a reality. The sites would thereby be remediated and prevented from releasing further harmful emissions.
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